KATHMANDU, August 4: Following the government’s decision to restrict the selling of wood products produced from forests, the import of furniture and wood has skyrocketed in the country. While there is a shortage of dollar reserves in the country, about Rs 18 billion went out of the country in the fiscal year 2021/22 alone due to the increase in the import of wood, furniture, and furnishing materials. On the other hand, wood materials produced from the forests of Nepal are decaying.
According to the data released by the Department of Customs for the fiscal year 2021/22, wood worth Rs 7.44 billion was imported into the country. Similarly, during the same period, furniture materials worth Rs 10.37 billion were imported. Summing up the two aforementioned figures, the country imported wood and furniture materials worth Rs 17.82 billion in the last fiscal year. Although there are abundant forests in Nepal, the export of wood and furniture materials has been meager.
As per the department, the country exported wood worth Rs 582 million last fiscal year. Similarly, exports of furniture and furnishing materials stood at Rs 138.1 million. Adding these two figures, the country exported wood, furniture, and furnishing materials worth Rs 718.4 million last fiscal year.
In the fiscal year 2020/21, wood worth Rs 7.88 billion and furniture and furnishing materials worth Rs 7.30 billion were imported into the country. The import of the goods added to Rs 15.18 billion. Similarly, in the year 2020/21, the export of wood stood at Rs. 5.7 million while that of furniture and furnishing materials was Rs. 39.8 million. The total exports of the goods added to Rs 165.6 million. Sujil Shrestha, vice president of Nepal Federation of Furniture and Furnishing Entrepreneurs, says that the import of furniture has been increasing every year as a result of the government’s policy.
“Due to the Nepal government’s policy, a situation has been created where we have to import wood products from abroad instead of using the forests of our own country,” he said. “The wood in the forests of Nepal rot every year. However, the businessmen are not able to purchase the rotting wood and make products out of them. Therefore, by imposing certain standards and procedures, the government needs to create an environment wherein timber that has rotted can be used by the domestic industries,” he added.
Shrestha claims that the price of wood products in Nepal is very high as a consequence of the government’s policy. “The process of cutting and sawing wood in Nepal is very complicated,” he said. “The imports are also increasing as it is easier for timber merchants to import wood from abroad rather than buy it in the country itself.”
According to the results of the National Industrial Survey published recently by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of furniture manufacturers in Nepal is 6,696. Similarly, the number of wood product manufacturing businesses is 1,679.
The furniture manufacturing industry has added Rs 8.4 billion to Nepal's economy. Similarly, the lumber industry has added Rs 11.5 billion to the country’s economy. Shubhendra Joshi, chairman of Nepal Furniture and Furnishing Association, says that due to the government's policy, the prices of wooden materials in Nepal have become high. Consequently, the common people have not been able to access quality furniture materials.
“The forests of Nepal provide stronger and better wood than that imported into the country from abroad. However, as a consequence of the government’s policy, cheap and low-quality wood that comes from abroad is meeting the market demand,” he said. “Until some time ago, furniture was seen as a means of luxury, but now furniture and furnishing materials have become essentials,” he commented.
As per the preliminary results of National Census 2021, the 29.1 million people of Nepal live in 5.643 million buildings across Nepal. Almost all of these buildings are more or less equipped with these goods.
At present, the demand for furniture in government and private offices, hotel restaurants, etc. seems to be increasing rapidly. There are more than 326,000 government offices across Nepal. The demand for furniture and furnishing materials is also increasing in the decoration of such offices. In Nepal, the furniture and furnishing industry has been doing business worth about Rs 50 billion.
Rajkumar Dahal, vice president of the association, says that it is easier to do business by importing wood than opening a wood business in Nepal. “Earlier, it was possible to open an LC with a margin of 5-10 percent and import wood and furniture materials from abroad,” he said. “Now, since Nepal Rastra Bank has become stricter, it has been difficult to open an LC with a margin of 100 percent.”