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Country Profiles

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



VPA Status: FLEGT Implementing

vpa status history
  • Ghana is widely expected to be the second VPA country, after Indonesia, to issue FLEGT Licenses.
  • A Joint Assessment of Ghana’s Timber Legality Assurance System in 2020 found that some final milestones needed to be reached before Ghana could start FLEGT Licensing, including:
    • Forestry Commission’s evaluation and approval of remaining applications for conversions of concessions to Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUCs) and subsequent ratification of the approval by Parliament. A number of TUCs were already submitted for ratification, with more to follow as they are being processed by the FC; and
    • Forestry Commission updating and revising several Forest Management Plans that were deemed incomplete or outdated by the auditor.
  • Progress towards FLEGT Licensing will again be discussed during a Joint Monitoring Review Mechanism (JMRM) meeting between Ghana and the EU in May 2021.
  • The GhLas covers all national timber production and exports, of which the EU accounted for 16% in 2019, with around 70% destined for Asia and the Far East.
  • While the direction of trade has changed, Ghana has carried forward the FLEGT commitment as the initiative aligns well with Ghana’s own forest policy to ensure all logging is sustainable and there is equitable sharing of benefits from forest use.
  • Although FLEGT Licencing has yet to be launched, the assurance system, which applies to all companies engaged in the sector, is now fully operational.
  • The GhLas ensures universal application of forest management prescriptions, which cover a wide range of environmental and social aspects as well as ensuring sustained timber yield and ensures these are transparent and measurable.
  • The GhLas tracking system provides for near real time reconciliation of data gathered using handheld devices in the field. Discrepancies, for example between the volume of logs harvested and those transported, which in the past would have only become apparent months later, are now identified within hours.
  • There is also a mechanism to exercise control at point of export of all wood products to ensure only compliant consignments enter the global market.
  • Data is gathered and made available on the results of field audits and this reveals that, as awareness of the level and intensity of scrutiny has increased amongst frontline staff and private operators, the number of non-compliances is falling.
  • Another key outcome of the VPA is that civil society is now closely engaged both in the process of monitoring compliance and multi-stakeholder deliberations have become the accepted approach to policy implementation.
  • The Ghana Forestry Commission’s (FC) Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) signed an MOU in March 2019 on funding for the project ‘Enhancing Stakeholders interest in the Domestic Timber Trade Network (DOTTNET) Process to assess demand and supply of legal timber in the Ghanaian domestic market.
  • The project is part of the FC’s strategy to ensure wider international recognition and acceptance of Ghana’s VPA and ultimately its resulting FLEGT licensed timber and wood products.
  • This, it says, requires a ‘well-structured, regulated domestic market’, which will also ‘propel development and growth of the timber industry’.
  • The DOTTNET process will bring together players across the domestic market supply chain, including loggers, sawmills and sellers to promote trade in legal timber, backed by a platform providing traceability of timber sources.
  • The preparation phase will examine trade access to legal material and communication to the market on the GhLAS.

Forest Resources

Forest area (2020) 7.986 mil. ha
Deforestation rate (2010-2020) 0.0043 mil. ha/year
Planted area (2020) 0.297 mil. ha
Tree cover loss (2001-2020) 1.31 mil. ha (-19 %)
Tree cover gain (2001-2012) 135,000 ha
FSC certified area (August 2021) 21,430 ha
PEFC certified area (August 2021) 0 ha
Double certified area (FSC & PEFC, August 2021) 0 ha

Source: FAO, Global Forest Watch, FSC, PEFC

  • According to FAO FRA 2020, 7.986 (9.34) million hectares of Ghana’s total land area of 22.75 million hectares were forest in 2020. Between 2015 and 2020, the area of primary forest in Ghana decreased by 10,000 hectares to 385,000 hectares, the area of “other naturally regenerated forest” remained stable 7.689 million hectares, and the area of planted forest increased from 260,000 hectares to 297,000 hectares.
  • Around 8 million hectares of the land located in southern Ghana are categorized as high-forest zone that comprises several forest types: wet evergreen, moist semi-deciduous (southeast & northwest), dry semi- deciduous (inner zone), dry semi-deciduous fire zone, upland evergreen, southern marginal and southern outlier.
  • The semi-deciduous and evergreen forests have traditionally constituted the main timber-producing areas. The main species in the semi-deciduous forests are: Triplochiton scleroxylon (wawa), Mansonia altissima (mansonia), Nesogordonia papaverifera (danta) and Khaya ivorensis (African mahogany) while in the evergreen forests the main species are Guarea cedrata (guarea), Tieghemella heckelii (makore), Tarrietia utilis (niangon) and Uapaca spp. (assam).
  • While the total area classified as forest increased in Ghana between 2015 and 2020, there was a significant decline in forest condition during this period. Significant portions of the Timber Production Areas were further degraded and officially designated as “Convalescence Areas”, while others were converted to plantations (Conversion Areas) by government and the private sector.
  • A rising proportion of timber supply in Ghana is expected to derive from plantations in the future. A government review in 2012 identified 3.1 million hectares of potential lands suitable for forest plantation establishment including 135,000 hectares in reserves within the high-forest zone, 283,000 hectares in reserves in the savannah region, and 2.68 million hectares in off-reserve areas.


GDP (2020) 72,354.43 million USD
Population (2020) 31.07 million
Income group (2020) Lower middle income
Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Rank (2020) 118 / 190
Global Competitiveness Index Rank (2019) 111 / 141
Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (maximum value in 2004 = 100) (2019)

Source: World Bank, World Economic Forum

Timber Industry Competitiveness

  • The African Development Bank reported that the COVID–19 pandemic significantly curtailed Ghana’s economic growth momentum. Real GDP growth was estimated to decelerate from 6.5% in 2019 to 1.7% in 2020. The economic outlook is good in the short to medium term, contingent on an increase in demand for Ghana’s exports, improved business confidence, and successful implementation of the Ghana COVID–19 Alleviation and Revitalization of Enterprise Support programme. Growth is projected to increase to 4% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2022.
  • A World Bank report published in December 2019 on “Realizing Ghana’s Potential for Economic Diversification to Create More, Betters jobs” highlights that Ghana’s productivity levels are relatively high in the African context, although still lagging most other lower-middle and middle-income countries.
  • Following a period of decline between 2013 and 2016, Ghana’s performance against international competitiveness indices improved in 2017 and 2018.
  • Ghana slipped sharply down the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index from 67th in 2013 to 120th in 2017 but recovered slightly to rank 118th in 2020. Ghana’s ranking on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness index also improved slightly from 114th in 2017 to 111th in 2019.
  • On the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index, in 2019 Ghana (19.8) remained below RoC (25.6) but was ahead of Côte d’Ivoire (18.8), Cameroon (16.3) and Gabon (14.7).
  • While Ghana’s overall economic performance improved in 2017 and 2018 and appears to be responding well in 2021, the situation in the forestry and timber sector remains less positive.
  • The Ghana Timber Millers’ Organisation reported in April 2018 that 96 timber companies had shut down in the past 15 years, thereby reducing employment in the wood processing sector by 75,000 to about 20,000.
  • The 2018 report by the IMM Ghana correspondent indicates industry contraction is linked, among other things, to declining availability of commercially valued wood species, which entails further competitive disadvantages such as underutilisation of plant capacity and increased costs of sourcing materials over long distances.
  • In 2018, five large companies dominated the wood processing and export business in Ghana. Three of these companies are diversified in their product range and have invested in new technologies such as lamination, finger jointing and moulding. One of these companies reduced production and exports considerably in 2018, running only its plywood operations, due to financial difficulties. Another company that had operated from two sites moved machinery to consolidate production on one site closer to its forest resource.
  • Newly emerging and small to medium-sized companies are not focused on investment in technology or product innovation. Instead, they install thin-blade mobile sawmills and are located around forest fringes and in remote communities. There are no reliable data sources on the number of such companies active in Ghana.

Trade Overview

  • According to the ITTO Biennial Review, Ghana log production was 2.25 million m3 in 2020, down from 2.45 million m3 in 2017 & 2018, and significantly down from 2.65 million m3 in 2016.
  • The ITTO Biennial Review reports 234,000 m3 of log exports by Ghana in 2020, down from 483,000 m3 in 2018, 446,000 m3 in 2017 and considerably less than 660,000 m3 in 2016.
  • Ghana’s annual production of sawnwood, plywood and veneer is assessed by ITTO to have been flat between 2015 and 2020, respectively at 533,770 m3, 222,000 m3, and 163,000 m3.
  • Ghana’s exports of sawnwood are estimated by ITTO to have been 124,520 m3 in 2020 (98,000 m3 in 2018, up from 89,000 m3 in 2017); while exports of veneer were 11,920 m3 (11,000 m3 in 2018 down from 16,000 m3 in 2017); and exports of plywood were 16,940 m3 (significantly down on 24,000 m3 in 2018 and 2017).
  • Ghana’s imports of primary wood products are modest, estimated by ITTO to have comprised 27,260 m3 of logs (up from 13,000 m3 in 2018); 7,860 m3 of sawnwood (up from 3,000 m3 in 2018); and just 70 m3 of veneer (significantly down from 16,000 m3 in 2018).


  • In 2020, Ghana import value of all timber and timber products was US$162.8 million, 30% less than in 2019.  
  • Ghana imported paper products with total value of US$106 million in 2020, down from US$166 million in 2019 and US$496 million in 2017. Imports of paper products from China decreased from US$43 million in 2018 to US$14 million in 2020.
  • In contrast to paper, imports of wood and wood furniture products from China have been rising, from US$9.7 million in 2015 to US$14.2 million in 2020.
  • Total imports of wood furniture products amounted to US$33.5 million in 2020, a rise from US$26.8 million 2019 but little changed from US$32.2 million in 2018.
  • In 2020, Ghana imported secondary processed wood (e.g. mouldings and flooring) with total value of US$12.7 million, a sharp fall from 2019 (US$20.7 million) and 2018 (US$24.1 million).
  • Total import value of all of timber and timber products from the EU27+UK decreased from US$77 million in 2019 to US$71 million in 2020. Imports from the EU27+UK comprise mainly paper and further processed wood products, including joinery, mouldings and furniture.
  • Ghana imported around 10,000 m3 of pine logs valued at nearly US$1 million from South Africa in 2018, up from only 3,000 m3 valued at US$350,000 the previous year. However, Ghana’s imports of wood and wood furniture products from all other African countries are negligible.
Ghana’s imports by product group (data source: STIX)
Ghana’s leading import product flows (data source: STIX)


  • Ghana’s timber and timber products exports were valued at US$ 198.4 million in 2020, 34% down from US$302 million in 2019. In the period 2015 to 2019, before the COVID pandemic, Ghana’s exports were consistently above US$300 million.
  • Ghana only permits the export of plantation grown logs which mainly consist of teak. In 2020, Ghana’s log exports were valued at US$72.4 million, the lowest value recorded post 2015. In 2019 log exports were valued at US$165.1 million. India was the main export partner in 2020 with an export value of $44.4 million, down from US$73.9 million in 2019. Exports of logs to China were valued at US$17.7 million in 2020, falling from US$76.5 million in 2019 and US$102 million in 2017. Exports of logs to Viet Nam, valued at US$29.6 million in 2017, fell to US$9.3 million in 2020. Exports of logs to other countries amounted to US$1 million in 2020 from a high point of US$8.2 million in 2015.
  • The share of logs in the total value of exports in 2020 fell to 36.5%, the lowest share post-2015. In 2016 the share of the export value of logs was almost 62%.
  • Sawnwood exports in 2020 were valued at US$66.6 million, compared to US$83.8 million in 2019 and US$68.7 million in 2018. China remained the dominant export market in 2020 with a value of $US26.9 million. Exports to the USA fell slightly to US$7.6 million, as did exports to Germany at US$6.6 million. Viet Nam bound exports continued to decline in 2020 with a value of US$5.1 million, having peaked in 2017 at US$14.5. Other significant sawnwood markets in 2020 were India (US$3.4 million), Belgium (US$2.4 million), France (US$1.4 million) and UK (US$1.2 million). Senegal remains the main African export partner with exports valued at US$1 million in 2020, falling from $1.8 million in 2018).
  • The majority of sawnwood exports comprise air dried products, notably of rosewood (although formally banned from export since March 2019) and teak destined for Asian markets, but some is kiln dried, mainly of wawa (about half of KD volume) with smaller volumes of mahogany, cedrela, and a wide range of species including odum, koto/kyere, sapele, edinam, and black ofram.
  • Veneer exports were valued at US$16.4 million in 2020. This figure is less than half of the value (US$33.1 million) in 2015 and has fallen every year since 2015. Italy (US$3.6 million in 2020) and USA (US$2.8 million) remain the dominant markets, followed by Spain (US$1.6 million) and Canada (US$1.5 million). Other significant markets include China (US$1 million), Saudi Arabia (US$0.8 million), Egypt (US$0.8 million) and Germany ($US$0.8 million).
  • The share of veneer in Ghana’s exports rose from 6.9% in 2019, to 9.3% in 2020. Veneer is more important in value terms than plywood.
Ghana’s exports by product group (data source: STIX)
  •  Around 70% of Ghana’s veneer exports comprise sliced products, in a variety of species including asanfina, koto/kyere, sapele, chenchen, and ceiba.
  • Sliced veneer exports are destined mainly for Italy, taking around one third of volume, followed some distance behind by Egypt, Morocco, UAE, and China.
  • The remaining veneer exports comprise rotary product, mainly ceiba, destined for Spain (around 40%), USA (around a quarter), Egypt, and Morocco.
  • Secondary processed wood products exports were valued at US$9 million in 2020, a slight increase over 2019 (US$7.5 million). In 2015 secondary processed wood product exports stood at $58.6 million, although the figures are suspect with the vast majority of product in that single year destined for Benin and Nigeria which do not usually feature in trade in these products. Côte d’Ivoire was the leading export market for SPWPs in 2020 with a value of US$2.4 million. The second major market was Belgium with a value of US$1.4 million. 
  • Plywood exports continue to decline in value, standing at US$5.7 million in 2020. In 2017 plywood exports were valued at US37.7 million.
  • Plywood was formerly a significant export product for Ghana, but trade has dwindled in recent years. In 2020, only around 2.9% of Ghana’s export volume comprised plywood.
  • Nearly all Ghana’s plywood exports are of ceiba and are transported overland to neighbouring African countries, notably Niger, Burkina Fasso, Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
  • In recent years, only one Ghanaian company has exported plywood to markets outside Africa, nearly all to South Korea.
  • In 2020, the EU27+UK accounted for 14.9% of Ghana’s total timber product export value. The share has grown from 10.6% in 2015 and 11.8% in 2019.
  • China accounted for 23% of Ghana’s timber product export value in 2020, down from 29.7% in 2018. Ghana’s exports to China fell from US$94 million in 2018 to US$45.6 million in 2020.
  • In contrast to China, Ghana’s exports to India increased from US$20.5 million to US$24.1 million between 2018 and 2020. Nearly all this comprised logs, mainly of plantation teak. India’s exports represent 24.1% of the total value of exports in 2020, up from 20.5% in 2018.
  • Viet Nam imported US$14.3 million of wood products from Ghana in 2020, down from US$34.1 million in 2018. Viet Nam accounted for 7.2% of Ghana’s wood product exports, down from 10.8% in 2018.

EU+UK Imports from Ghana

  • EU27+UK imports of timber products from Ghana decreased from US$35.8 million in 2019 to US$29.6 million in 2020.
  • EU27+UK imports from Ghana comprise mainly sawnwood (US$16.2 million in 2020), veneer (US$6.8 million) and SPWPs (US$5.3 million). 
  • In 2020, Ghana’s largest EU27+UK trading partner was Germany (US$8.4 million), followed by Italy (US$4.1 million); Belgium (US$3.9 million); UK ($2.9 million); France (US$2.3 million) and Spain (US$1.8 million). Estonia’s imports from Ghana increased sharply from negligible levels in 2017 to US$1.9 million in 2020.  
  • Imports from Ghana declined sharply into all the leading EU27+UK markets in 2020 with the exception of France and Estonia. 
EU+UK imports from Ghana by product group
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)
EU+UK imports from Ghana by destination
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)

Data Sources and Issues

  • Data is derived from IMM analysis of UN COMTRADE, Eurostat COMEXT, IHS Markit Global Trade Atlas, and national statistics from Business Trade Statistics Ltd.
  • An alternative and comprehensive source of data on Ghana export trade is the monthly Timber Export Permit Report issued by the Timber Export Development Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission. This data is not used in the IMM VPA country report because it is not provided in a digital format and not structured according to the international HS system of product codes.
  • Unchanged production volume for sawnwood, plywood and veneer between the years 2015 and 2018 reported in the ITTO Biennial Review implies low quality data and irregular reporting of this data in the Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire.