BEIJING, July 18 (Xinhua) -- China's flourishing bamboo industry is becoming one of the pillar sectors in the country's forestry industry and also a key in the country's efforts to establish a low-carbon economy, an industry leader said in Beijing.
With 5.38 million hectares of bamboo plantations and an annual increase of 100,000 hectares, China is leading the world's bamboo industry in its number of varieties, amount of bamboo reserves, as well as production output, said Jiang Zehui, co-chair of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)'s board of trustees.
The Chinese government is also working to develop its bamboo industry to meet its goals in environmental protection and green economic development, as planting bamboo is both profitable and environmentally-friendly, Jiang said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.H An INBAR report in 2009 suggested that bamboo was proven environmentally-friendly since it draws in carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen as it grows, and grown bamboo can capture and hold more carbon dioxide than equivalent plantation trees.
To promote the development of the bamboo industry, China has encouraged technological innovations. "Nearly 200 patents have been applied to develop more uses of bamboo, which has greatly assisted in the development of the industry," said Jiang.
According to Jiang, new processing techniques have led to a variety of new bamboo products, such as raw bamboo, daily-used goods, artifacts, plates, and bamboo charcoal, which are widely used in different sectors ranging from construction, packaging, transportation, medicine to tourism.
A further opening up of the international market also helped to boost the industry. Health-care products and artificial plates made of bamboo were well received in Southeast Asia, Europe and America, she said.
China's bamboo industry has provided more than 35 million jobs, making the sector part of the new drive in the economic development of the world's largest agricultural country. The bamboo sector chalked up 70 billion yuan (10.33 U.S dollars) in total output value last year.
Jiang admitted that despite all the positive signs, problems and challenges remained in the industry.
"The imbalance of regional development, insufficient use of certain species and low productivity had left many resources untapped," she said.
"Most of the bamboo manufacturers are small-scaled. Those with an annual production of over one million yuan only account for 8 percent of the total industry," she added.
Jiang called for the establishment of a high-tech industrial chain to enhance efficiencies within the bamboo sector with more encouragement for technology innovation and an optimization of the production structure.
"Developing the bamboo industry is of great significance to protecting the environment and developing a greener economy," she said.
The Chinese government promised last November that it would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 compared with the 2005 level.