Even though worldwide Mexico comes twelfth in terms of the extent of its forestry resources, the cultural gap that exists between the urban and the rural contexts has made it impossible for small sawmills to access the market. “Part of the problem is that there’s a culture clash,” said Alfonso Argüelles, the Mexican representative for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), in an interview with Conecto.mx.
“What is the matter? When a client arrives to a community, generally speaking, the latter is not accustomed to responding instantly and when orders are big, the community says ‘I’m going to consult with the town’s council’. When the entrepreneur hears this, he says that [the community] is not prepared and they break off the business deal”.
At the event, representatives of the business sector, timber-producing communities, social organizations such as Reforestamos México, and a number of government workers joined to discuss strategies of how to promote the management of Mexico’s forests with an environmental, social and economically profitable focus
Over the course of the event, the attendees voiced the same doubts. “How can we include small producers?”; “What do small producers need to become timber suppliers?”; “The problem is the link between supply and demand”. Tetra Pak, one of the speakers at the forum and a consumer of huge volumes of cardboard, acknowledged that they felt obliged to buy raw material from North American forests and Scandinavia, although their dream would be to have a local manufacturer.
However, according to Sergio Madrid, general director of the Consejo Mexicano para la Silvicultura Responsable (the Responsible Forestry Council of Mexico), in Mexico, 600 areas of communal agricultural land, known locally as ejidos, and communities formed their own companies to produce timber. Of these, 58 even obtained an independent certificate from the FSC. According to Madrid, these are made up of towns that are labeled by Sedesol as marginal communities but who adhered to the same criteria the FSC uses to audit major timber consortiums in Russia and Canada.
They are the owners of their resources, they don’t allow forest fires, they don’t allow illegal felling. They are the best guardians and caretakers we have in Mexico. (…) Nowadays, the big private companies, the big product and service companies have the opportunity to use certified products.
“In the morning they said there is no supply. Of course there is enough supply,” he complained.
This supply, though, is scattered among many communities. Argüelles explained that a necessary step would be to organize small producers to negotiate as a group with large companies, something easier said than done.
From the point of view of large buyers, who are generally on the lookout for one company to supply everything, Argüelles requested that they have a more flexible focus and that they incorporate a gradual business plan. “They can’t expect for communities will be able to supply them with all their produce overnight. However, communities usually learn by seeing and if they see that one product is working well, they try to join in and thereby gradually increase the supply. Therefore, there are two paradigms that need to be broken; one where one supplier solves everything and the other one is where communities independently want direct access to the market. These have to be done away with.”
Another way NGOs in Mexico have tried to narrow the gap is by promoting intermediary agencies, in other words people who act as a bridge between the construction companies and the communities. “It is a link between two worlds. That is what we are missing and because of this, we need to create a new kind of – as we call it – ethical intermediary; someone who is interested in the responsible management of the communities but who is also connected to the business world”.
The FSC is the leading forestry certification institution in Mexico. In 2013, the country had 1.06 million hectares certified under sustainable use. Out of this total area, 719,000 hectares were certified by the FSC, while the rest was certified by preventive technical audits or by the Mexican Forestry Certification System (Sceformex).