International Business and the Gifts of the Ussury Taiga
Primorsky Province, bordering the Pacific Ocean in the Russian Far East, leads the country in the development of sustainable forest management enterprises. More than half of Russia’s 1.13 million hectares leased for the collection and processing of edible and medicinal forest plants are located in Primorsky. The province’s Korean pine - broadleaf forests are prime habitat for the Amur tiger and provide livelihood for the region’s indigenous peoples and remote taiga communities. Since 2007, WWF Russia has facilitated leases of more than 600 000 hectares of valuable forests zoned as government pine nut harvesting zones to local businesses. For 49 years these businesses and the resident communities have the right to harvest and trade edible and medicinal plants, so-called non-timber forest products.
«One of the main initial results of the leases was that all commercial logging immediately ceased and the risk of re-launching such logging has been considerably reduced, says Evgeny Lepeshkin, head of the Forest Program at WWF Russia Amur. – The next important сhallenge for the leaseholders is to build successful businesses, marketing the non-timber forest products of the nut harvesting zones to the world. Sustainable income from these “Gifts of the Taiga” will allow professional management of some of the important tiger habitats in the region.”
The rich forests of the southern Russian Far East produce hundreds of edible and medicinal plants used in Oriental medicine and herbal treatments, for teas and dietary supplements, and many other products.
But most of the unique wild plants from the richness of Primorsky’s vast forests are sold on domestic and international markets as “Made in China”, as that is where most of the processing of non-timber forest products takes place. Primorsky’s harvesting zone leaseholders are ready to change that pattern and install modern processing facilities following the highest global standards. But so far they lack serious investments to do so.
“Leasing Korean pine harvesting zones protects the area’s Korean pine stands against logging as well as enables the development of new enterprises to process sustainably collected products from these forests. Our investment into non-timber forests product processing facilities was reviewed by experts from the International Center for Regional Development and presented for listing in the Program for Socio-Economical Development of Primorsky Province in 2013-2017, notes Aleksey Karasev, head of “Production and Procurement Base LLC from the city of Arseniev, Primorsky Province.
Today’s direct dialogue between large Russian and foreign businesses interested in the Ussury taiga’s gifts and the leaseholders of Primorsky’s nut harvesting zones is a first important step towards successful management of healthy forests through sustainable collection and sale of its non timber products to the world.
“Our goal right now is to facilitate direct contact between forest leaseholders and the world’s main processers and traders of their products, comments Evgeny Lepeshkin, head of forest program at WWF Russia Amur branch. But we as a non governmental institution together with the leaseholders also are working towards achieving significant changes in legislation necessary to make this forest use sector truly profitable and beneficial for all stakeholders”.