............THE FOREST






“How to invent a Forest Industry”

T ake a nice warm south seas country like Fiji; experiment with soft and hardwood seedlings from all over the world; find a tree like Caribbean pine that flourishes like crazy in the dry areas of Fiji; start planting in 1960 – and presto – you have a forest industry with a 15 year rotation to a 56 to 61 centimeter dbh Fiji pine by 1980!
....Well of course you add in some intelligent direction; some determination to find a better economy; the backing of government, business and landowners – plus the downright niceness of the Fijian people and you have yourself a thriving forest industry.
....How did this inlet logger tumble onto such a remarkable event? I’m glad you asked. No, my editor did not send me on such an assignment. I stumbled on it while winterizing myself and family in that charming island group. Where everyone you meet says – “bula” – welcome. And they mean it.
....I had heard my young traveling friend, David Cartwright, speak of Pinus Caibica in connection with his trips to the new softwood forests of Brazil and I was fascinated by his stories of 10 to 15 year rotation and “foxtails” on the odd pines that grow so fast they don’t have time to sprout branches.
....For those of you readers unlucky enough not to have been there – Fiji lies about 18 degrees latitude and the International Date Line runs through the islands. As I look at my watch here in British Columbia, Fiji time is 20 hours ahead of us. The Fiji Times, a tabloid style of newspaper, bills itself – The First Paper Printed In The World Today.
....There are hundreds of islands in the Fiji group with Vanua Levu and Vita Levu the largest, and the latter also the most populated. The total population of the island group is near 600,000, made up of about half original Fijians and half East Indians.
....As this is a forestry magazine, dedicated to a conservative subject such as trees – I shall not bore you with


descriptions of the fantastic coral beaches, the swaying coconut palms, the warm ocean waters, the snorkeling on the reefs midst a million multi-colored fish. No sir, I shall not say a word about such things. As they say, we’ll stick to the facts, man – just the facts!
....And the main fact is that this beautiful little country has, in 20 years, entered the softwood forest products world. The rolling hills of the dry parts of the two largest islands are now a sea of green pines. – where 20 years ago there was only waste grassland.
....After viewing the Fiji pine forests near Nadi, I called the office of the Fiji Pine Commission in Tautoka and made a date to come over and talk to Mark Calhoon, their information officer. Mark is an ex-peace corps officer from the Chicago area who stayed on in the islands when he saw the pine explosion. He was most generous with his time and gave me a good briefing on this more or less – instant forest.
....Sugar has been the islands’ biggest industry since way back. It was the sugar harvesting and manufacturing that brought the East Indian people to Fiji. They have also become the farmers of


the drier areas of the islands and just about anything will grow in their well-looked-after farms.
....It was the vast areas of grasslands that triggered the idea that forests could be planted and thereby someday help the economy. In the years 1955 to 1960, many hundreds of seeds were tested in plots and the Caribbean pine was selected as being the best for such lands. This pine, originally grown in British Honduras and some Caribbean islands, has an exceptionally strong root system to withstand heavy winds and hurricanes.
....By 1960, planting was under way, with particular help in forestry matters and finance from New Zealand and also from Australian sources. A few years ago, the Fiji Pine Commission was formed to administer the forest lands. This group would sort of cor-respond with our Crown corpor-ations, with businessmen, landowners and government people making up the board of directors.
The general plan is that about 61,000 hectares will be planted by 1986 – half this amount is now thriving. Consultants from many countries have assisted the Fijian forest project and

The first shipment of Fijian logs to Japan
56  ·  British Columbia Lumberman  · February, 1981

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already one off-shoot of the trees is paying dividends. That is the gathering of seeds for export – mostly to Brazil. The Fiji pine seems to thrive so well in Fiji that the huge Jarre project in Brazil wants all the Fiji pine seeds it can get. In 1979, seed sales netted over $50,000 for the commission. A good start for a mere five years’ gathering.
....I mentioned the “foxtails.” These are a mutant that comes with the very odd tree. The seedling, instead of growing like a good little pine should, takes off like a rocket and will grow straight up, two meters a year. The goofy thing looks like a giant green bottle brush! This will happen for three to five years – no branches. Then the top will branch out like a Moslem temple.
....I asked Mark Calhoon if they worried about these odd foxtails and he said no. In fact, they are coming to realize that the straight-grained, six to 10 meter bole is clear of knots and just might be used as a lumber log instead of pulp.
....Up to this point, the Fiji Pine Commission have still been judging their final moves toward pulp mills, sawmills or combinations – or what. They could not be too sure of the quality of logs as lumber until they actually started up a sawmill. They have recently done this and are finding that with the proper drying techniques and preservative methods, their lumber product measures up quite well with other pines.
....In November, 1980, the first consignment of Fiji pine logs was ship-ped to Japan. Sixteen thousand cubic meters of logs were involved in this first real export of their new forest. The logs were bought for pulp, but South Pacific rumor has it that many were used for lumber. The Japanese are quite interested in long term commitments of logs from the islands.
The Pine Commission hopes for an eventual annual cut of one million cubic meters of wood by 1990.
....One does not grow an instant forest in 20 years without a lot of side effects. Fire control for the forest lands had to be studied and good prevention methods set up. The training of loggers


in the use of chain saws, skidders and other machinery for harvesting was essential. Fijians were sent to other countries to learn how to be loggers – and they in turn have become the logging instructors in Fiji.
....Logging safety was recognized as an essential element to a successful industry and so safety programs were set up to teach the safe and sure way to handle machinery.
....I asked Mark Calhoon about the comparison of this Fiji pine to other fast growth pines. He said it has all the similar qualities of Radiatta pine of New Zealand and the southern pines of the U.S.A. Ways will have to be developed to properly dry the lumber and to impregnate preservatives into the wood. The tropical rains of a few minutes plus the heat of intense sunshine the next minute, give rise to many construction problems that will have to be solved, according to the commission.
....As a sidelight, I was very interested to hear about their recent introduction to logging sports. The Fijian forest Service is using logging sports as a training procedure and as a means to bring pride to the logger for his skills.
....I noticed that they were using some of the contests with chain saws that I have seen at world championship chainsaw contests for loggers in Finland and Norway.
....Of course, dear reader, the idea that a small group of champion chaps from Canada could go down to Fiji and give demonstrations to those charming people never entered my head. After all, what young Canadian logger in his right mind could stand those coral sands, or balmy breezes and warm waters – oh, sorry, – back to the facts.
....So my friends – there you have it – an invented forest industry – and it couldn’t happen to a nicer people. Welcome to the evergreen forestry world, Fiji – Bula! Oh yes – and Mark

...........................Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore



British Columbia Lumberman  · February 1981  ·  57