The government ban on planting new eucalyptus forests is a “huge loss to the Portuguese economy,” according to the Portuguese Association of the Paper Industry, CELPA.
The head of Portugal’s leading eucalyptus pulp producer, Altri, already has threatened to halt investment in new pulp mills if Portugal continues to demonise the tree.
The government’s forestry reform package triggered a reaction from the industry which cites “incorrect and preconceived ideas” that have led to the ban on planting further areas with the much-criticised tree.
An announcement published on April 21st, claimed that the industry has behaved in an exemplary manner while husbanding the country’s natural resources "using this well-adapted species, with total respect for the environment.”
Environmentalists seem to have won the day with the government agreeing to halt any expansion of eucalyptus forests in favour of planting indigenous trees to increase bio-diversity.
CELPA claims the ban will damage its members' pockets and will lead to job losses and a reduction in exports.
Paulo Fernandes, Altri’s boss, said in January that his company "is willing and committed to investing in Portugal but will stop if the anti-eucalyptus lobby continues.
"The simple banning of the planting of certain species of tree, in this case the eucalyptus, preferring that bushes flourish, is not recommended," but his warning has not been heeded and the new forestry package results from consultation with those concerned with a balanced environment.
Altri Florestal has around 84,000 hectares under management in Portugal and the company claims to be committed to promoting biodiversity, particularly in areas of high ecological value and claims already to have replanted original trees in areas where its eucalyptus forests failed to grow fast enough.
"We are not apologists for monocultures, but our challenge is to increase productivity in the eucalyptus forest and also to monetise deserted areas.
“We do not agree with those who, sitting in offices and not knowing what a forest looks like, are limited to creating obstacles as if forestry somehow is taking advantage of society and the country,” said Paulo Fernandes, gaining few new friends at a critical time for the industry i.e. during the consultation process for Portugal’s forestry.
The resulting ban is not good news for the industry which claims the ban, “reduces managed areas, encourages the abandonment and growth of unused scrubland and will increase fire risks."
The industry threatens that thousands of jobs will be lost but the government is happy that eucalyptus growers can better manage the areas already designated as eucalyptus forest to increase output.