Prospects for commercial tree farming in Colombia

Main Article Content

Robert R. Davis https://orcid.org/0009-0005-2493-4400
Rafael De la Torre https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9761-8442
Frederick Cubbage
Bruno Kanieski de Silva https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4007-2717

Keywords

acacia, carbon sequestration, Colombia, eucalyptus, forestry, growth rates, investment returns, pine, risks, tree planting

Abstract

Over the next few decades, the area of planted forests required to satisfy worldwide demand for fiber, timber, and environmental services will need to increase by tens of millions of hectares (Mha). As no single nation can accommodate this expansion, planting sites in multiple countries must be identified. One prospective location is Colombia, which boasts nearly 26 Mha of land suitable for commercial tree planting, fair-to-excellent growth rates for major industrial species, good professional expertise, seaports on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and low-to-moderate land prices. Yet, despite these outstanding assets, tree plantations in Colombia cover only 542 thousand hectares (ha), with almost 90 percent located in three distinct regions: the Andean, Orinoco, and Caribbean. Constraints to commercial tree farming in Colombia include cultural preferences for non-wood products in construction and domestic applications, low capacity for processing industrial roundwood, and lack of reliable wood supplies needed for firms to scale up operations. While land prices are attractive in the remote Orinoco Region, they are considerably higher in more accessible regions, such as the Andean and Caribbean, which are closer to markets, mills, and ports. These factors along with security problems, low levels of formal land titling, and property rights issues in rural areas can complicate operations and add risk to investments in plantation forestry. With land for tree planting at a premium and increasing global demand for wood, fiber, and carbon sequestration, Colombia’s plantation sector stands to profit, provided it can successfully address the barriers to its growth.

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