The signature by the EU and Vietnam of the latter’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement is scheduled for later this year, with ratification in 2019. They are being heralded as critical staging posts, and important moments both practically and psychologically, in the country’s progress towards full VPA implementation and its start of FLEGT licensing of timber and wood product exports to the EU.
The FLEGT licensed information point is expanding its information for timber buyers. Recent IMM trade consultations revealed that the trade advantages of FLEGT licensed timber are relatively well-known. However, the private sector is keen to learn more about, and articulate to their clients, the social, economic and environmental benefits of FLEGT licensed timber.
The Joint Implementation Committee for the Indonesian VPA met on 1 March 2018 in Jakarta to review experience with the first 15 months of licensing. According to information from the Indonesian SILK database and the Licensing Information Unit (LIU), more than 39,000 FLEGT licenses were issued during 2017. This means that FLEGT-licenses accounted for 18.2% of all V-Legal documents – paperwork accompanying Indonesian exports globally and guaranteeing timber legality – issued during that period.
Comment from the EFI FLEGT-Facility: A quiet revolution has transformed Ghana’s forestry sector, laying the foundations for sustainable development, greater benefits for communities and improved access to international markets. One recent development is the Ghana Timber Transparency Portal, the result of a collaboration between the Forestry Commission and civil society organisation Civic Response.
The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) has conducted an analysis of Ghana’s FLEGT VPA requirements compared to requirements of Ghana’s National Forest Certification System, which is expected to obtain PEFC-endorsement in early 2019. The study identified significant synergies and complementarity between FLEGT and certification requirements and concluded that, while “working at different levels in many regards”, the ultimate outcomes would be complementary: “improving forest management and combating illegal logging and associated trade”.
The establishment of FLEGT VPAs with Central African timber producers has been a welcome and positive development, with longer term potential for facilitating trade with EU customers. However, to date the fact that African countries have signed VPAs and are hopefully progressing towards their full implementation and ultimately FLEGT licensing, has not impacted on day-to-day business. Currently EU operators still feel they are having to put suppliers in VPA-engaged African countries through as searching due diligence as ever to comply with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, and this can be a time-consuming, arduous business. If the VPA process prior to FLEGT licensing can in anyway simplify or streamline EUTR due diligence procedure, it is not sufficiently explained or understood in the marketplace.
It may be little known outside Indonesia, but the country’s PHPL scheme is its largest sustainable forest management (SFM) programme and it stands behind and further underpins the sustainability credentials of a significant proportion of Indonesian FLEGT-licensed exports.
A new report from the European Forest Institute (EFI) FLEGT facility has identified opportunities for China to incorporate timber legality requirements into its laws and regulations and thus help promote legal forest products trade. It also identifies the challenges.
Ghana has launched the public Timber Transparency Portal that provides access to information on logging in Ghana. The Portal can be accessed by stakeholders around the globe. It is part of governance reforms in the forest sector as a result of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Ghana and the EU, according to a press release from Civic Response.
Ghana and the European Union are currently bringing final steps underway for completing VPA implementation in the country. The latest meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism (JMRM) at the end of February decided the tender process for the Final Joint Assessment of Ghana’s Legality Assurance System (GhLAS) should be completed no later than 1 May; at that time, consultants should begin evaluating the system.
The cargo shipment test evaluating export and import procedures in preparation for the transport of Ghanaian FLEGT-licensed timber to Europe showed that, while some administrative issues need addressing and some procedures fine-tuning, the Ghanaian system works well in principle.
UK government recognition of FLEGT-licensing in timber procurement policy as evidence of legality and sustainability on an equal footing with FSC and PEFC schemes is a major credit to the initiative. However, more market promotion, communication and education is needed before a FLEGT licence achieves the broad awareness and acceptance levels of these ‘brand-leading’ certification schemes. That’s the view of David Hopkins, managing director of the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF).
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