Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive media event on the future of China’s paper industry, where I had the opportunity to engage in constructive exchanges and the sharing of ideas with media practitioners.
During the gathering, members of the local media acknowledged China’s current status as one of the top paper producing nations in the world as it gains more prominence in the global pulp and paper industry year after year.
This is not so surprising when you consider the fact that nine of the top 100 paper enterprises in the world are Chinese and China’s consumption of paper and cardboard products accounts for 25 percent of the global total.
Nevertheless, members of the media still voiced concerns about various underlying threats to the long-term growth and stability of the Chinese paper industry, including a heavy reliance on imported raw materials that continues to undermine the profit margins of Chinese paper enterprises.
In order to fully address this particular concern, a number of China’s paper enterprises are leading efforts to steer a gradual overhaul of the industry, and one of these enterprises is APP-China. As a member of this organization, I continue to bear witness to its efforts toward eradicating obstacles to the paper industry’s long-term growth, especially our commitment to developing plantation-pulp-paper integration that would create an alternative option to imported raw material.
Plantation-pulp-paper integration has long been a common practice among paper enterprises of developed western nations, as market forces prompted them to organically integrate the previously separate paper manufacturing, pulp production and plantation development business segments into a self-sufficient production cycle. With this approach, paper companies are actively responsible for growing plantations and supplying their own raw materials to bring about a restorative cycle that is self-sufficient and renewable, simultaneously minimizing pollution and wastage.
To alleviate the Chinese paper industry’s reliance on imported raw materials, the central government introduced policy to implement special planning for plantation-pulp-paper integration project construction in the middle 1990s, requiring a significant increase in self-supply of wood pulp for the paper industry. Currently, under the 12th Five-Year Plan (encompassing the period from 2011 to 2015), calls for a comprehensive modernization of China’s paper industry also put plantation-pulp-paper integration initiatives at the forefront of sustainable business practices in the sector.
Responding to these needs, APP-China stands out as one of a handful of China’s leading paper enterprises spearheading efforts in commercial plantation development in the country. By the end of 2010, we had established 19 forestry companies with a total plantation area exceeding 300,000 hectares. APP-China manages these plantations using harvesting rotation cycles. One-sixth of mature plantations are harvested annually based on the six-year-long growth cycle of plantation trees, with replanting taking place shortly after harvesting. The remaining plantations are left to grow and mature, allowing for sustainable development.
Apart from supporting self-supply, the plantation-pulp-paper integration initiatives have tremendous contributions to environmental protection, as plantations absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and prevent soil erosion. For instance, the 300,000 hectares of APP-China plantations can absorb eight megatons of carbon dioxide per year.
Further, these initiatives also allow APP-China to give back to society. By working with members of local communities in poor rural areas to create plantations from degraded land, we seek opportunities to actively engage in the development of infrastructure facilities and schools in these regions, creating additional employment opportunities, income and social services. For example, living standards in Gongtangxia Village, which neighbors APP’s Jinhai facility in Hainan Province, have risen considerably between 2003 (before the Jinhai project came into existence) and 2009, following the commissioning of the project. Before the Jinhai project was established in 2003, the villagers of Gongtangxia lived in run-down houses. There were no cars, and only three motorcycles in the entire village. However, in 2009, reinforced concrete housing could be seen everywhere in the village. Of the over 800 residents in the village, practically every household owned a motorcycle, and there were 7 or 8 cars, all purchased since 2005.
Looking at these facts, I believe that plantation-pulp-paper integration initiatives are proving to be an effective way for China’s pulp and paper industry to tackle the challenge of insufficient domestic supply of raw materials, while they also help drive sustainable economic, social and environmental development. And I am proud that APP-China is taking an important role in industry development by actively advocating this great cause and showing by example how it can be successfully done.