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CHINA,Jun.10,Chinadaily - China will push forward its Natural Forest Protection Program and phase out all commercial logging of natural forests by 2017, according to an official from the State Forestry Administration (SFA).

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Forest in Lesser Khingan, China. [Photo/SFA]

China's commercial logging of natural forests stands at nearly 50 million cubic meters annually, and the phase-out program will be carried out in three steps, said Zhang Jianlong, the deputy head of the SFA, at a press conference on Tuesday.

A pilot program kicked off last year, and all state-owned forest farms and areas will be banned from commercial logging of natural forests from next year, Zhang explained, adding that a similar ban on collectively-owned and private forest farms would follow in 2017.

In Northeast China, about 4 million cubic meters of natural forests have survived commercial logging since a ban on key state-owned forest areas took effect.

China now has 198 million hectares of natural forests, 127 million hectares of which have been put under the administration of reservations since the launch of the Natural Forest Protection Program in 1998.

According to Zhang, China has planned 14 million hectares of strategic timber reserves, most of which are located in the south, while in five to eight years they could increase timber supply by 95 million cubic meters, which will help fill the gap after the ban on commercial logging of natural forests.

However, by 2020, over 40 percent of China's timber demand will still have to be met by imports, it is estimated.

China is the world's largest importer and second largest consumer of timber, with annual timber consumption amounting to nearly 500 million cubic meters. The country's timber imports now stand at 20 million cubic meters per year.

Despite the ban, local residents are still allowed to log, though subject to quotas.

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