Country Profiles

Access to latest commentary on timber industries and economies of EU and VPA partner countries

VPA COUNTRY

CAMEROON

VPA Status: FLEGT Implementing

vpa status history
  • Cameroon started VPA negotiations in 2007, signed the agreement in 2010 and ratification followed in 2011. However, the pace of VPA implementation has been slow in recent years.
  • In January 2019 the Joint Annual Report (JAR) for 2017 on the VPA’s development was released.
  • In May 2019, both parties to the VPA agreed to stop implementation of the SIGIF2 software, which was supposed to underpin the Legality Assurance System, and launch a new initiative as a part of the Programme d’amélioration de la gouvernance en milieu forestier (PAMFOR) programme. Revision of the legality definition is also underway.
  • Cameroon became one of the first African countries to require the use of legal wood and timber in all its public procurement procedures. Operators engaged in construction or public purchases in connection with wood by-products have to prove the legal origin of the wood used. A joint decree was signed on December 15, 2020 by Cameroonian ministers in charge of Forestry, Public Works, and Public Contracts. 
  • The public sector is Cameroon’s main wood and furniture buyer, using at least 13 000 cubic metres per year for infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and other public facilities. However, sawn timber from legal sources and supplying the domestic market is estimated at only 27% of the total volume of timber in circulation in the country’s main markets, according to a study by the Center for International Forestry Research. The remaining 73% of wood supplied to the domestic market and its operators was deemed “illegal”.
  • In December 2020, a joint decree was signed by MINFOF together with the ministries in charge of Public Works and Public Procurement, making the use of legally sourced timber a requirement in all public procurement procedures. As the FAO notes, the decree will apply the definition of “legal timber” as agreed under the VPA. It “also mandates all Public Offices and Agencies to establish a database recording the amount of legal timber they consume”.
  • In April 2021, SIGIF2 – the software initially meant to underpin the Timber Legality Verification System, and presented by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna (MINFOF) as a tool that will also enhance the recovery of tax in the forest sector – was officially launched by Cameroon. This prompted the EU and the German cooperation to reiterate their view that while SIGIF2 could help Cameroon “meet its internal needs”, the legality certificates it issues “cannot be recognized or validated under the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), and even less in the context of future FLEGT licenses”.
  • Until recently, the bilateral dialogue around the implementation of the VPA was hampered by the disagreement between the Parties over SIGIF2. However, Cameroon and the EU Delegation have now agreed that an independent evaluation of the system will be carried out in the near future.
  • In the months leading up to the launch of SIGIF2, preparations had intensified for the national rollout of the software, and a series of training workshops was initiated, targeting both government officers and the private sector. As of summer 2021, the training was still ongoing.
  • The two latest meetings of the VPA National Monitoring Committee, held in August 2020 and March 2021 respectively, focussed on revising the VPA legality grids. National stakeholders have commented on this revision process as being a convincing example of multi-stakeholder collaboration in the VPA context. The revised grids were presented at the meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee that was held in June 2021 and Joint Implementation Council meetings (expected to take place mid-2021).
  • The furniture exhibition “Made in Cameroon” took place in late June – early July 2021. The event was successful in its ambition to promote the legal sourcing of timber and Non-Forest Timber Products in the domestic market, as well as sensitise to the role of women in the sector. However, it also highlighted the challenges that SMEs and artisans still face in accessing and providing the documentation that verifies the legality of the timber they source.

Forest Resources

Forest area (2020) 20.34 mil. ha
Deforestation rate (2010-2020) -0.056 mil. ha/year
Planted area (2020) 0.061 mil. ha
Tree cover loss (2001-2020) 1.53 mil. ha (-4.9 %)
Tree cover gain (2001-2012) 65,100 ha
FSC certified area (August 2021) 341,708 ha
PEFC certified area (August 2021) 0 ha
Double certified area (FSC & PEFC, August 2021) 0 ha

Source: FAO, Global Forest Watch, FSC, PEFC

  • Cameroon’s forests are mainly tropical rainforests of two predominant types: lowland evergreen (54% of total forest area) and lowland semi-deciduous (28%) which are rich in commercial species of Meliaceae such as Entandrophragma cylindricum (sapelli) and E. utile (sipo).
  • According to FAO FRA 2020, 20.34 million hectares of Cameroon’s total land area of 47.27 million hectares were forest in 2020.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, the annual rate of deforestation in Cameroon was 58,000 hectares per year, the same rate as the previous five years and lower than the previous two decades.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, the area of  planted forest increased from 51,000 hectares to 61,000 hectares.
  • The main direct and indirect causes of deforestation and forest degradation are: the development of agricultural activities – both slash-and-burn subsistence agriculture and cash crops (e.g. cocoa); the illegal exploitation of timber outside the Permanent Forest Estate; the exploitation of fuelwood, particularly around major urban centres; and the development of the mining sector (bauxite, cobalt).
  • According to CIFOR, the allocated area in forestry concessions in Cameroon rose from 5.8 million hectares in 2012 to 6.3 million hectares in 2016. During this same period, the number of forest concessions rose from 82 to 91.

Industry

GDP (2020) 39,802.15 million USD
Population (2020) 26.55 million
Income group (2020) Lower middle income
Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Rank (2020) 167 / 190
Global Competitiveness Index Rank (2019) 123 / 141
Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (maximum value in 2004 = 100) (2019)
16.3

Source: World Bank, World Economic Forum

Timber Industry Competitiveness

  • Drawing on Cameroon government sources, CIFOR notes that Cameroon is host to around 120 authorised and active forest enterprises and 199 timber processing units, the latter divided among the first (71), second (75) and third (53) degree of processing capacity.
  • Although Cameroon probably has the largest timber industry capacity in tropical Africa, the country suffers from low competitiveness across a range of indices which has restricted opportunities to develop exports of processed wood products.
  • ATIBT reports that there are circa 60 operational large companies in 2021.
  • Cameroon slipped from 114th to 123rd rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, Cameroon was ranked 167th on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, down from 166th the previous year.
  • Cameroon has a low level of connectivity to export markets and performance relative to other African countries has been declining in recent years. On the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index, in 2019 Cameroon (16.3) fell below Ghana (19.8), RoC (25.6), Côte d’Ivoire (18.8), but it was just ahead of Gabon (14.7).
  • Cameroon has traditionally played an important role as a hub for exports of timber from neighbouring countries but, since 2016, exports out of Douala port in Cameroon, the principal transport hub for the wider Congo region, have become extremely erratic. This is due to reliance on old and unreliable equipment, management problems, alleged corruption and silting up of access channels which means that larger, deep-draft vessels are unable dock.
  • The new, Chinese-funded, deep-water port at Kribi in Cameroon, became operational in 2020. The Port of Kribi was built to handle multipurpose shipping line services including ro-ro, project and heavy lift cargo, forest products, dry bulk and other general cargoes, and to offer support services to the oil and gas industry.
  • Other problems include the diminishing commercial availability of tropical hardwood species, and delayed payment of VAT refunds by African governments, partly linked to low oil prices, which created severe financial challenges for operators in the region.

Trade Overview

  • According to the ITTO Biennial Review, Cameroon log production was around 5.46 million m3 in 2020 (up from 3.6 million m3 in 2018 and 3.1 million m3 in 2015). Cameroon log exports decreased from 1.23 million m3 in 2018 and 1.4 million m3 in 2017 to 0.559 million m3 in 2020.
  • Cameroon sawnwood production is estimated to be around 1 million m3 per year, although data quality is low. Only very small volumes of plywood, veneer and other processed products are manufactured and exported from the country. Sawnwood exports amounted to 0.782 million m3 in 2020, down from 1.052 million m3 in 2019.

Imports

  • Cameroon imported timber and timber products with total value of around US$129.9 million in 2020, recovering from a slight dip to US$124.9 million in 2019. Longer term there has been a gradual increase in import value from US$113.2 million in 2015. 
  • Around US$63 million of imports in 2020 were from the EU27+UK, the majority comprising paper (US$ 52.2 million) and wood furniture products (US$9.3 million).
  • Around US$35 million of import value was from China, of which around US$27.9 million comprised paper products and most of the rest was wood furniture.
Cameroon’s imports by product group (data source: STIX)
Cameroon’s leading import product flows (data source: STIX)

Exports

  • Analysis of data derived from IMM analysis of STIX and UN Comtrade indicates that the total export value of timber products from Cameroon decreased to US$714 million in 2020, a 17% decline on 2019 figures (US$865 million).
  • Log exports in 2020 amounted to US$217.9 million, a decline on 2019 (US$277.1 million). Over half of the value of log exports were to China (US$116.1 million in 2020), a significant decline on 2019 figures (US$143 million). The export value of logs to Viet Nam has almost halved since 2017 (US$157 million falling to $88 million). Exports of logs to India have fallen by 90% since 2015, falling from US$44.3 million to US$4.2 in 2020. Exports of logs to the EU27+UK continue to decline, from US$13.6 million in 2015, to US$5.1 million 2020.
  • Sawnwood exports in 2020 amounted to US$445.7 million. This represent a decline on 2019 (US$522.5 million) though in line with values for 2015-2018. Sawnwood exports are diverse with ten partner countries importing more than US$10 million in 2020. The largest export market was Belgium (US$90.6 million) with the value declining on 2019 (US$103.3 million). Exports to China amounted to US$84.3 million, an increase over 2019 (US$81.6 million). Exports to Viet Nam declined to US$61.8 million, having grown post-2015 from US$20.8 to US$88.9 in 2019.
  • The EU27+UK’s overall share in Cameroon’s international timber sales has declined in recent years, from more than 80% in 2004 and 2005 to 34.6% in 2020. At the same time China and Viet Nam have expanded share, respectively accounting for 30% and 21% of export value in 2020.
Cameroon’s exports by product group (data source: STIX)

EU+UK Imports from Cameroon

  • As timber production has declined in West African countries in recent times, and a larger proportion of production from the Congo is now destined for China and Viet Nam, EU27+UK buyers have increasingly focused on supply from Cameroon.
  • This is particularly true of large importers in Belgium which now play a significant role in delivery of tropical hardwoods from Cameroon to other parts of the European continent.
  • Ayous, sapele and tali represent the largest proportion of Cameroon timber exports to the EU27+UK.
  • Significant EU27 markets include Belgium (US$90.6 million), Italy (US$27.1 in 2020), France (US$23.9 million), Spain (US$18.4 million) and the Netherlands (US$16.3 million). In 2020 UK bound exports amounted to US$24.8 million, consistently increasing year by year since 2015.
  • EU27+UK respondents to the IMM survey in 2018 forecast that Cameroon would likely be the most important tropical timber supplier for the EU markets in 2025 and were therefore particularly keen for FLEGT-licensed timber to become available in Cameroon.
EU+UK imports from Cameroon by product group
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)
EU+UK imports from Cameroon by destination
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)

Data Sources and Issues

Due to lack of regular data on timber product exports from Cameroon, the statistics shown in this IMM report draw on import data from major timber trading partners in the EU, Asia and America. While these countries include Cameroon’s most significant trade partners, there are data gaps, notably relating to trade flows with neighbouring countries in Africa. Data is derived from IMM analysis of UN COMTRADE, Eurostat COMEXT, and national statistics from Business Trade Statistics Ltd. The data is also made available at www.stix.global and www.immstats.org.