Biological Diversity Ecosystem Condition and Productivity Soil and Water Role in Global Ecological Cycles Economic and Social Benefits Society's Responsibility
Economic and Social Benefits Distribution of Benefits Sustainability of Benefits
Indicator 5.1.1 - Contribution of timber products to the gross domestic product Indicator 5.1.2 - Value of secondary manufacturing of timber products per volume harvested Indicator 5.1.3 - Production, consumption, imports, and exports of timber products Indicator 5.1.4 - Contribution of nontimber forest products and forest-based services to the gross domestic product Indicator 5.1.5 - Value of unmarketed nontimber forest products and forest-based services
Indicator 5.1.4 - Contribution of nontimber forest products and forest-based services to the gross domestic product
core indicator


Nontimber forest products (NTFP) include over 500 botanical products and all products generated directly or indirectly from organisms living in forest ecosystems. The definition of NTFP excludes classical timber and pulp and paper products, as well as valueadded products from the timber and pulp and paper industry (Duchesne and Wetzel 2002). The NTFP sector has supported the traditional Aboriginal lifestyle for thousands of years and has provided supplemental income and seasonal employment for rural communities with limited economic opportunities.

In recent years, however, mainstream industries including forestry, agriculture, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals have begun to seize the commercial potential of NTFP. Because of this, NTFP harvesting has grown over the last decade from a marginal industry to a significant sector. As this is an emerging sector, little historical data exists. Furthermore, there have been few attempts at integrating the NTFP and timber industries. The increase in demand for NTFP and their value-added products may lead to opportunities for resource-dependent communities.

The traditional NTFP industry has been estimated to contribute as much as $1 billion to the Canadian economy (Duchesne and Wetzel 2002), but precise current values are unavailable. An estimate of the potential contribution of most NTFP to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) is also unavailable, and would be challenging to extract as NTFP span many sectors of activity (Table 5.1a).

Table 5.1a Examples of nontimber forest products (NTFP) produced in Canada.
NTFP category Examples

Wild edible food products Functional foods, mushrooms, berries, herbs, vegetables and spices, honey, tree saps, tree nuts, wild rice, understory plants, essential oils, seeds, teas, flavoring agents
Materials and manufacturing products Platform chemicals (polylactic and levulinic acid), bioplastics, silvichemicals (lignosulphates), essential oils
Health and personal care products Pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, aromatherapy oils, herbal health products, fragrances
Decorative and aesthetic products Florals and greenery (e.g., salal), craft products, Christmas trees, native crafts, specialty wood products and carvings, cones
Environmental products Biofuels, biopesticides Landscape and Transplants (trees, shrubs, garden products wildflowers, grasses), mulches, soil amendments
Nonconsumptive bioproducts Carbon credits, tourism and education, biodiversity conservation, recreation, water quality


The contributions of some NTFP to the Canadian economy have been determined, for example, the maple products industry, whose economic value has been increasing since the 1990s and reached $156 million in 2003 (Figure 5.1k). According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canada produced about 85% of the world's maple syrup in 2003, selling more than 36 558 t to over 42 countries.2 Preliminary data from Statistics Canada (2005a) indicate farm cash receipts reached $146 million in 2004 and had reached $133 million by the second quarter of 2005.

Figure 5.1k

Figure 5.1k Contribution of maple products to the gross domestic product. (Source: Statistics Canada 2005b)
Updated Data: PDF | Excel


Christmas tree production is another example of a thriving NTFP subsector. Data from previous years indicate approximately 3.9 million Christmas trees were produced in Canada in 2004 of which about 1.7 million were sold to Canadian households, down from 2.4 million trees in 1992. Exports to the United States are expanding, however, reaching 2.3 million trees, and accounting for over $36 million of the $62 million in sales in 2004 (Natural Resources Canada 2006).

Finally, although furs are increasingly produced on fur farms, approximately 38% still come from forests and are harvested by trappers (Natural Resources Canada 2006). In 2003, the last year for which data are available, 1.47 million furs originated from fur farms whereas 902 000 came from trapping (excluding sealskins). Revenues from trapping (excluding sealskins) reached $25.6 million.

These three examples are typically at the lower end of the technical spectrum and help support forest communities and provide alternative sources of revenues to forest operations. The current output and economic contributions of the wild edible food products group have also been broadly estimated, along with their economic potential (Table 5.1b).

Table 5.1b Estimated current output of forest-based foods (FBF) in the Canadian economy. (Sources: AAFC 2000, 2003; Mitchell and Associates 1997; Wills and Lipsey 1999)
FBF commodity Output in tonnes or litres (000) Current economic value (000$) Additional economic potentiala
Secondary products and/or additional potential Value (000$)

Honey 37 072 160 805 Pollination, wax, royal jelly, propolis 1 000 000
Tree saps 34 761 163 968 Birch syrup products
Additional maple potential
31 200
164 000
Berries 149 373 278 654 Specialty niches: native fruits 26 000
Mushrooms 1 43 000 Edible export potential 115 000
Understory plants 2 75 321 Forest-grown ginseng 753 210
Wild rice 1 013 3 492    
Total   725 240 Total 2 089 410
a In some instances, the economic potential has been calculated but official statistics have not been released.


At the other end of the technical spectrum, increased application of biotechnology in biomass processing will yield new NTFP, also referred to as bioproducts. Plant biomass can be processed and converted by fermentation and other processes into chemicals, fuels, and other materials such as bioplastics. As markets change to reflect a shift away from fossil fuel dependence and toward renewable sources of raw material, the contribution of NTFP to the Canadian economy will likely rapidly increase.

Forest-based services include various outdoor activities, such as guiding-outfitting, hunting, fishing, and tourism, which rely on the forest. Current data on the economic impacts of these services are lacking and the national survey The Importance of Nature to Canadians (Environment Canada 1999) is still the most recent comprehensive database on activity patterns of Canadians and their expenditures for outdoor recreation. This survey outlines the tremendous importance Canadians place on forests and its nontimber values. According to the survey, the total expenditures by Canadians on naturebased activities reached over $11 billion in 1996.

Although more recent data is unavailable for most provinces, preliminary updated economic figures for forest-based services are available for British Columbia and Quebec. In British Columbia in 2003, forest-based services were valued at $142.2 million, creating employment for 1900 person-years (BC Stats 2005). In Quebec, several studies have indicated that up to $3 billion is spent annually on sport fishing and hunting, outdoor recreation, and wildlife watching and photography activities. This in turn generates an additional $1.5 billion in economic activity. These expenditures have led to the creation and maintenance of 32 000 jobs across the province as well as the payment of $818 million in salaries and wages annually.3 An update of The Importance of Nature to Canadians would present much needed information on the current value of forestbased services to the national GDP.

2 http://ats-sea.agr.gc.ca/supply/3310000_e.htm
3 http://www.fapaq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/faune/faunenatureenchiffres.htm