Economical Aspects of the Forests
The Forest Industry and the Economy
Mitsui balances forestry operations with protection of the environment.
Present Situation of Japan's Forest Industry
According to a survey by the Forestry Agency, timber demand in Japan fell from a peak of 121.02 million m3 in 1973 to 64.80 million m3 in 2009. However, demand has started to rise gradually since then and reached 82.48 million m3 in 2018. Japan’s self-sufficiency ratio for timber is also recovering and rose from an all-time low of 18.8% in 2002 to 36.6% in 2018.
This growth can be attributed to government efforts to regenerate the Japanese forestry industry. In addition to the passage of the Act for the Promotion of the Use of Wood in Public Buildings in 2010, the government is also working to improve upstream efficiency, including measures to promote the use of biomass. It has also prioritized downstream demand stimulation and has initiated reform measures that are gradually starting to yield benefits. The national total of people employed in the forestry industry had fallen to around 45,000 by 2015. However, the government is implementing policies to drive growth in the forestry work force, and recently there has been an uptrend in the percentage of young workers under the age of 35. Continued collaborative efforts by the private and public sectors will be needed to ensure the continuing regeneration of the Japanese forestry industry.
Balancing Environmental Preservation with the Forest Industry
In the Forests for Regeneration and Harvest at Mitsui's forests, we combine the appropriate cyclical operation of harvest, use, planting, and cultivating with attention to biodiversity, at the same time introducing measures that promote the preservation of the surface soil and increased absorption of carbon dioxide absorbed. At present, with the aim of balancing environmental preservation with the forest industry, we are working to build an economically viable structure so that the profits generated are not only used in the cyclical management of Forests for Regeneration and Harvest, but can also be plowed back into cultivating Natural Forests and Naturally Regenerated Forests.
Mitsui is not only committed to efficient cyclical forestry operations in its Forests for Regeneration and Harvest, but also considers it important to increase the use of domestic timber resources by developing applications for lumber, and is working on relevant new initiatives.
Promoting Wood Biomass and Using the J-VER System
An urgent priority for the forestry and lumber industry is to make sure that lumber is used for a wide range of applications so that no material goes to waste. As part of its efforts to develop uses in areas other than construction, furniture, and paper manufacture, Mitsui has begun working to promote the use of wood biomass as an alternative to fossil fuel. An example of this is collecting branches and other parts of the tree that are left in the forest and cannot be used as lumber and converting them to wood chips as an auxiliary fuel for thermal power generation or to pellets for use as boiler and stove fuel.
Mitsui will also secure the stable supply of woody biomass fuel to the wood biomass power plant (Operative since 2017) in Tomakomai City, Hokkaido. Mitsui made a capital participation to Tomakomai Biomass Power Generation Co., Ltd. in October 2014.
Meanwhile, a Mitsui's forest-thinning project in Hokkaido and Mie-prefecture has been registered under the Ministry of the Environment's J-VER system, resulting in the award of certification for the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed fixing achieved by the appropriate management of Mitsui's Hokkaido and Mie-prefecture forests. Mitsui was granted an offset credit for approximately 6,600 tons from Hokkaido in March 2011, and approximately 1,330 tons from Mie-prefecture in January 2012 of carbon dioxide absorbed, which is now being sold. In this way, we are taking active steps to include environmental value in the monetary cycle in the form of profits from the forest industry.
Going forward, Mitsui will work in concert with Mitsui Bussan Forest Co., Ltd., to which we outsource practical forestry and upkeep operations, to manage our forests in a way that contributes to the regeneration of Japanese forest industry, an important step toward addressing environmental issues.