Interview: Gaston Mauvezin
How does Mexico’s forestry industry compare to other countries in the region?
GASTON MAUVEZIN: The trade deficit has been a long-term issue in the Mexican forestry industry. As the country has continued to grow we have failed to sufficiently invest, and this gap has been steadily widening over the years. Other Latin American countries with fewer natural resources than Mexico, such as Uruguay, Peru and Chile, have strategically developed their forestry sectors, which typically represent around 4-6% of their GDP. This figure stands at around 1% in Mexico. However, it is for this reason that Mexico has room to grow, and the challenges ahead will be overcome as the country’s natural conditions strongly favour growth in the forestry industry. If Mexico manages to plant between 1m to 1.5m ha, we can certainly close the current deficit. This planting process may take from eight to 10 years to achieve, but it is possible with effort and persistence.
To what extent are forestry companies making a concerted effort to achieve efficiency gains?
MAUVEZIN: There is an increasing interest in developing the forestry sector, although there is a lack of mainstream awareness of the industry’s potential. The government should create a strategy to reduce the damage caused by the annual deforestation of 500,000 ha and to more sustainably manage the country’s natural resources. This is a fundamental aspect to any strategy. A primary focus on technological development will also help to ensure that the industry can be as productive and efficient as possible.
Furthermore, the private sector has not been fully integrated into decision-making processes and thus, has not been sufficiently represented by the government. For instance, it is crucial that we implement a better designed forestry tax system and a more thorough legal framework to directly address the specific needs of industry stakeholders. We need to have our views heard and represented by the authorities and work hand-in-hand towards the sector’s development.
What efforts have been made to consolidate the national supply chain and create additional value-added opportunities?
MAUVEZIN: For each US dollar in the Mexican forestry industry, there are four to five times more to be made in value-added services, which are transforming and industrialising the sector. Our aim is to develop the entire value chain, starting with planting trees and following with the subsequent industrial processes. The lack of responsible development for the primary resource in the value chain directly correlates with a lack of investor confidence in the wood industry. In the case of Proteak, we have been simultaneously developing both ends of the chain, with the intention of attracting further investment and enabling the country to build a strong export platform.
How can the forestry industry contribute to the development of the country’s southern states?
MAUVEZIN: There is no other industry more economically suited to be in the south of the country than forestry. The combined factors of a favourable climate and the high soil quality make the sector the ideal catalyst for the region’s economic development. Likewise, the agricultural nature of the southern Mexican states forms an ideal foundation for the development of this particular sector. Using the traditional workforce capacity, the region’s existing agricultural roots can be complemented by a progressive industrialisation process. This will then set the wheels in motion for a long-term sustainable path to economic prosperity in the region.
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