The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s working groups on forestry decided on a fundamental reform plan to streamline state-owned forestry operations on August 8, calling for a two-thirds reduction in the number of workers, to 5,000.

National forestry operations are in serious trouble with debt amounting to some 3.5 trillion yen. While the government has mainly planted cedars in many parts of the country after logging in the past, the trees have been left unattended because inexpensive imported logs from other Asian countries are much cheaper than cutting domestic trees due to high personnel costs. These logs are now making inroads into the Japanese market.

The LDP plan recommends that the debt be paid by using taxpayers’ money. It also recommends the government conduct forest management, including such conservation strategies as flood prevention and replantation, and privatize its forestry business.

The number of regional forestry offices should be halved to seven, and district forestry offices reduced to about 100 from the current 264, it says. Implementation should occur by around 2003, according to the LDP members in charge of compiling the plan.

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