-The forests of Burma are the finest in British India and one of the chief assets of the wealth of the country; it is from Burma that the world draws its main supply of teak for shipbuilding, and indeed it was the demand for teak that largely led to the annexation of Burma. At the close of the First Burmese War in 1826 Tenasserim was annexed because it was supposed to contain large supplies of this valuable timber; and it was trouble with a British forest company that directly led to the Third Burmese War of 1885. Since the introduction of iron ships teak has supplanted oak, because it contains an essential oil which preserves iron and steel, instead of corroding them like the tannic acid contained in oak. The forests of Burma, therefore, are now strictly preserved by the government, and there is a regular forest department for the conservation and cutting of timber, the planting of young trees for future generations, the prevention of forest fires, and for generally supervising their treatment by the natives. In the reserves the trees of commercial value can only be cut under a licence returning a revenue to the state, while unreserved trees can be cut by the natives for home consumption. There are naturally very many trees in these forests besides the teak.
In Lower Burma alone the enumeration of the trees made by Sulpiz Kurz in his Forest Flora of British Burma (1877) includes some 1500 species, and the unknown species of Upper Burma and the Shan States would probably increase this total very considerably. In addition to teak, which provides the bulk of the revenue, the most valuable woods are sha or cutch, india rubber, pyingado, or ironwood for railway sleepers, and padauk. Outside these reserves enormous tracts of forest and jungle still remain for clearance and cultivation, reservation being mostly confined to forest land unsuitable for crops. In 1870-1871 the state reserved forests covered only 133 sq.m., in all the Rangoon division. The total receipts from the forests then amounted to Rs.7,72,400. In 1889-1890 the total area of reserved forests in Lower Burma was 5574 sq.m., and the gross revenue was Rs.31,34,720, and the expenditure was Rs.13,31,930. The work of the forest department did not begin in Upper Burma till 1891. At the end of 1892 the reserved forests in Upper Burma amounted to 1059 sq.m. On 30th June 1896 the reserved area amounted to 5438 sq.m. At the close of 1899 the area of the reserved forests in the whole province amounted to 15,669 sq.m., and in 1903-1904 to 20,038 sq.m. with a revenue of Rs.85,19,404 and expenditure amounting to Rs.35,00,311. In 1905-1906 there were 20,545 sq.m. of reserved forest, and it is probable that when the work of reservation is complete there will be 25,000 sq.m. of preserves or 12% of the total area.
Fisheries and fish-curing exist both along the sea-coast of Burma and in inland tracts, and afforded employment to 126,651 persons in 1907. The chief seat of the industry is in the Thongwa and Bassein districts, where the income from the leased fisheries on individual streams sometimes amounts to between £6000 and £7000 a year. Net fisheries, worked by licence-holders in the principal rivers and along the sea-shore, are not nearly so profitable as the closed fisheries - called In - which are from time to time sold by auction for fixed periods of years. Salted fish forms, along with boiled rice, one of the chief articles of food among the Burmese; and as the price of salted fish is gradually rising along with the prosperity and purchasing power of the population, this industry is on a very sound basis. There are in addition some pearling grounds in the Mergui Archipelago, which have a very recent history; they were practically unknown before 1890; in the early 'nineties they were worked by Australian adventurers, most of whom have since departed; and now they are leased in blocks to a syndicate of Chinamen, who grant sub-leases to individual adventurers at the rate of £25 a pump for the pearling year.
The chief harvest is of mother of pearl, which suffices to pay the working expenses; and there is over and above the chance of finding a pearl of price. Some pearls worth £1000 and upwards have recently been discovered.