Japan is looking to boost its forest products capacity following the release of several policies aimed at increasing timber use in buildings and increasing Visas for foreign workers in the forest.
The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, announced the announcement, including cutting pollen-producing cedar trees near major urban centres.
It comes as the Japanese PM pledged in May to reduce pollen emissions by 50% – the root cause of Hay Fever – which now afflicts 40% of the country’s population.
At the time, PM Kishida announced a two-pronged plan: to reduce the planted cedar area by escalating tree-cutting from 50,000 hectares per year to 70,000 hectares. And secondly, to substitute over 90% of the young cedar trees with species that generate less pollen over the coming decade.
Under the new policies, Japan has revised its Building Standards Law to encourage the greater use of cedar timbers in buildings.
Taking effect in April of next year, it builds on the country’s “Promotion for the Use of Wood in Public Buildings”, which seeks to increase the use of Japanese domestic wood in buildings up to 3 storeys and 3000 square metres in footprint.
Japan is one of the world’s most forested countries, with the government now working with major construction companies to drive greater efficiencies in its forest value chain.
As one of the major drivers of the new policy, Obayashi identified ‘upstream,’ ‘midstream’, and ‘downstream’ drivers for greater utilisation of timber in Japanese buildings.
According to the government, the hope is that cedar trees can be converted into panelling, veneer, plywood and redwood products to fuel the country’s construction boom.
The government will also subsidise firms buying high-level logging machinery and push for more people in the farming and construction sectors to enter the forest products industry.
Hay Fever has emerged as a significant health crisis, with the government looking to curb emissions and, at the same time, revitalise the construction industry in a “win-win.”
“We will aim to resolve hay fever, which is a social issue, and revitalise local communities through the promotion of forestry,” PM Kishida told a ministerial meeting.
The new policies provide the Japanese forest industry with a much-needed injection, with the Japan Times reporting that the industry has been in long-term decline for decades.
In 2020, the number of workers in the industry was 44,000 – which is less than a third of the 1980 level.
The surge of cedar trees in Japan can be traced back to the post-World War II economic boom when large-scale reforestation efforts were undertaken.
Whilst official data is lacking, a survey conducted by a group of ear, nose, and throat specialists suggests that hay fever prevalence in Japan has steadily risen from 19.6% in 1998 to 42.5% in 2019.
In May, Wood Central reported that the government will use supercomputers and artificial intelligence to refine the accuracy of pollen forecasts.