National

Prefectures subsidized to ship lumber to Tohoku disaster areas fell short: audit

Kyodo

Lumber sent from prefectures that received government subsidies to supply wood to areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 only amounted to 0.04 percent of their total shipments in fiscal 2012 and 2013, according to a recent survey.

The Board of Audit of Japan survey scrutinized how the recipient prefectures spent the subsidies. The lumber supply project backed by Forestry Agency subsidies aimed to provide stable amounts of wood to the disaster-hit prefectures, including Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba, Niigata and Nagano.

The total amount of wood shipped to the disaster-hit recipients via direct deals or market bidding by 15 other prefectures that received the subsidies amounted to 9.4 million cu. meters.

“The outcome shows that the recipients of the subsidies, or their neighboring prefectures, consumed most of the lumber on their own, assuming their larger lumber output would eventually help ease the demand in the disaster-hit areas. But the supply should directly go to those areas,” the Board of Audit said.

The Forestry Agency said the survey does not show the whole picture of lumber distribution because Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were sufficiently supplied not only by the subsidy-recipient prefectures but other ones, and this resulted in stable timber prices.

A total of ¥140 billion in subsidies were paid to all prefectures except for Tokyo and Kanagawa in fiscal 2011. The board inspected wood shipped by 22 prefectures, including Hokkaido and Yamanashi, in fiscal 2011 to 2013.

Some of the subsidy-recipient prefectures, including Nagasaki, spent the funds on different projects, including the promotion of timber exports.

The Forestry Agency said in July 2013 that it would introduce stricter rules on how to spend budgets related to the reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas. As a result, it limited the subsidies to projects to supply lumber directly to the areas.

The step prompted the recipient prefectures, except for nine hit by the disaster, to return a combined ¥39.4 billion to the national coffers and they are expected to repay a further 9.6 billion, according to the board.

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