The future of the hardwood trade is not clear because there is enormous pressure from conservationists to reduce its use. Most hardwoods take many decades to grow to maturity so that much of such timber being exploited is, to all intents and purposes, a non-renewable resource and such trees are a vital element in reducing the ‘greenhouse’ effect. On the other hand, softwoods, which are the firs, larches and pines, tend to be ‘farmed’ under strictly controlled conditions so that in most producing areas the total amount is being increased rather than the reverse. Here there is a very wide variety, ranging from plywood through to newsprint. This latter product is especially valuable and susceptible to mishandling damage and so much of the trade is conducted in specially designed vessels engaged in long-term contracts. The main exporting areas are Canada (both East and West) and Finland. Naturally, winter conditions can cause disruption, particularly when ice affects the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of Bothnia. As a result, those vessel’s engaged in this trade need to be ice-strengthened. Although unaffected by the ice difficulty, Western Canadian exporting terminals are frequently beset by heavy rainfall and newsprint has to be kept dry at all costs. A product in heavy demand for the packaging and carton manufacturing industries – is supplied mainly from North America, especially the US Gulf and the West Coast, also from Scandinavia. There can be little doubt of the importance of the various raw materials and finished products covered under this heading when one realises that twenty-five years ago India, with its massive population, was heavily reliant on the outside world for supplies of grain. It is now quite rare to see grains being imported into that nation, a circumstance brought about almost solely by the use of fertilisers. Similar improvements in agriculture through the use of fertilisers may be found in most developing countries.