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Major Japanese trading houses are moving to increase the output of pulpwood chips abroad as their attempts to stabilize supply through forestation projects overseas have begun to bear fruit.

The chips are used as raw materials for producing paper for photocopiers and other uses, said officials of the trading houses, including Nissho Iwai Corp., Marubeni Corp. and Mitsui & Co.

The firms began to plant eucalyptus and acacia trees in countries that include Vietnam and Australia jointly with paper and pulp makers in the early 1990s, in response to the rise of global concerns about deforestation.

The tree plantations are now mature enough to enable the companies to log and export products to Japan, the officials said.

Nissho Iwai in early July set up a forestation company in northern Vietnam, its third such firm in Vietnam, to raise chip output there by 150,000 tons to around 600,000 tons per year.

Nissho Iwai also has two similar companies in Australia.

“This is a type of project that takes time before we can log and is subject to natural disasters like forest fires and droughts,” said Yoshihiko Matsuo, senior vice president of Nissho Iwai’s Consumer & Forest Products Company. “But it has finally began to sprout.”

Marubeni holds a stake in an Australian business that plans to set up an additional factory at the end of next year to expand chip output by 550,000 tons to 1.3 million tons.

Mitsui also plans to increase output, running eight forestation projects in Australia.

According to the semipublic Japan Overseas Plantation Center for Pulpwood, major traders and paper and pulp makers in Japan started importing wood chips produced in their plantations abroad for the first time last year.

It usually takes about a decade for eucalyptus to grow tall enough for logging, but technological innovations paved the way for a variety that grows in about seven years, the center said.

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