Country Profiles

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VPA COUNTRY

liberia

VPA Status: FLEGT Implementing

VPA history of Indonesia
  • Liberia started VPA negotiations in 2009, agreed and signed the VPA in 2011, and ratified the VPA in 2013.
  • The FLEGT Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), comprising government, private and civil society representatives met in February 2019 for a briefing on the latest state of the VPA and to relaunch talks on implementation.
  • In late 2019, the legality and traceability functions of LiberTrace – the country’s timber tracking system – were transferred to the Forest Development Authority (FDA), and the Legality Verification Department of FDA became ISO certified (ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Systems). As of summer 2021, the transfer of LiberTrace from Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) to the Government of Liberia was still in progress.
  • While the System is deemed able to detect non-compliances, concerns regarding the handling of such non-compliances and their persistence in the field were raised by the EU and acknowledged by Liberia during the 8th meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), which took place in November 2020.
  • A priority area for acceleration is the activation in LiberTrace of the verifiers in the VPA Legality Matrix. As of summer 2021, only 30% of the verifiers had been activated.
  • Five audits of the Legality Assurance System (LAS) were carried out under the first mandate of the Independent Auditor (2017-2021), and the fifth audit report was submitted in April 2021. The Auditor has noted the positive role played by the third-party monitoring of timber export permits (SGS contract, extended until early 2022), but also highlighted a number of gaps and shortcomings in the system and enforcement at large.
  • Although both Parties agreed at the 8th JIC that the pace of implementation should intensify, with the JIC convening at least twice a year going forward, the date for the 9th JIC was yet to be announced as of July 2021.
  • At the 8th JIC it was noted that despite a goal of FLEGT Licencing to be operational by 2022, only 42 of the 132 verifiers in Liberia’s Legality Matrix had been verified. The Liberia Timber Association expressed concerns at the JIC that the Legality Matrix was too complicated to be operationlised.
  • The first National Forest Forum (NFF) on Benefit Sharing was held in November 2020. One outcome of the NFF was an agreement in principle that a transitory account could be used to streamline payments from companies to communities via the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board. This was further supported by Liberia and the EU at the 8th JIC, during which the Parties also emphasised the need to clarify the payment and collection of benefit sharing fees from dormant concession areas. The dialogue between government and community stakeholders is ongoing.
  • In 2021, the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA) published a Grievances and Disputes Resolution Mechanism Manual, developed to facilitate the use of the grievance resolution mechanisms outlined in the Social Agreements and contracts between companies and communities; and Tropical Timbers of Liberia, a manual which provides technical specifications for, and encourages the use of, 65 commercial timber tree species. The Liberia Chainsaw and Timber Dealers Union (LICSATDUN) developed a Code of Forest Harvesting Practices for chainsaw milling in compliance with the Chainsaw Milling Regulation.

Forest Resources

Forest area (2020) 7.617 mil. ha
Deforestation rate (2010-2020) -0.0303 mil. ha/year
Planted area (2020) 0.027 mil. ha
Tree cover loss (2001-2020) 1.92 mil. ha (-20 %)
Tree cover gain (2001-2012) 108,000 ha
FSC certified area (August 2021) 0 ha
PEFC certified area (August 2021) 0 ha
Double certified area (FSC & PEFC, August 2021) 0 ha

Source: FAO, Global Forest Watch, FSC, PEFC

  • FAO FRA 2020 estimates Liberia’s total forest area at 7.617 million hectares in 2020, out of a total land area of 9.632 million hectares. According to FAO, the rate of deforestation in Liberia remained quite consistent in the 30 years between 1990 and 2020, averaging 30,000 hectares per year.
  • According to FAO, Liberia has only 27,000 hectares of plantation, an area which has grown at around 1,000 hectares per year for the past two decades.
  • According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), from 2001 to 2018, Liberia lost 1.53 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to 16% decrease in tree cover since 2000. However, WRI also estimate that only 12% of tree cover loss during the period occurred in areas likely to be permanently deforested. Most tree cover loss was driven by shifting agriculture where trees are likely to become re-established.
  • According to ITTO’s 2010 Status of Tropical Forest Management report, the three main categories of vegetation cover in Liberia are mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semi-deciduous shrublands in the middle belt, and dense tropical forests and plateaux in the interior. The bulk of the forest is concentrated in two large blocks: evergreen lowland forests in the southeast, and the semi-deciduous mountain forests in the northwest.
  • The characteristic species of the moist evergreen forests are Lophira alata (azobé), Heritiera utilis (niangon) and Sacoglottis gabonensis (baill) as well as Lovoa trichilioides (African walnut) and Guarea cedrata (bossé). The semi-deciduous forests in the northern half of the country contain a higher representation of Meliaceae (African mahagonies).
  • According to data released by the FDA at the JIC meeting in March 2019, at that time out of a total 2.5 million hectares of forest that could potentially be allocated for commercial timber contracts, 1.1 million hectares had been assigned for commercial forestry and 411,000 hectares had been assigned for conservation forestry. Furthermore, FDA is making efforts to increase the area of conservation forestry to 1.5 million hectares in accordance with Liberian law.
  • An additional 1.2 million hectares are being allocated for the sustainable production of forest products by communities on a non-commercial basis. Full details of forest allocations are available at https://lbr.forest-atlas.org/

Industry

GDP (2020) 2,950 million USD
Population (2020) 5.60 million
Income group (2020) Lower income
Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Rank (2019) 175 / 190
Global Competitiveness Index Rank (2019) 132 / 141
Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (maximum value in 2004 = 100) (2019)
7.8

Source: World Bank, World Economic Forum

Timber Industry Competitiveness

  • The country held elections in 2017, leading to the first democratic transition of power between different political parties since 1944. Following the inauguration of the new administration in 2018, the United Nations Mission in Liberia, which had been in the country since the peace agreement of 2003, handed over its security responsibilities to the national police and military. These transitions coincided with the winding down of increased foreign aid after the 2014-16 Ebola out-break. These events caused a sharp decline in net foreign exchange inflows to the country. This, in turn, heightened pressure on the Liberian dollar exchange rate and on inflation. To stabilize the economy, the authorities had to make difficult adjustments to an economy with less foreign exchange inflows, which created significant hardship for the Liberian people. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Liberia during this difficult adjustment phase.
  • Reform efforts at the central bank have focused on rebuilding confidence in the banking sector. Inflation has begun to decrease from a high of 30% in 2018 to around 11% in early 2021. GDP growth remains low at around 3.5% in 2021.
  • The economic constraints are reflected in Liberia’s low ranking on international competitiveness indices. In 2019, Liberia was ranked 175th on the EBD index, 132nd on the GC index (it did not feature in 2020) and scoring very poorly (7.8) on the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index in 2019.
  • To date Liberia has attracted no significant inward investment in wood processing and only logs were exported in any volume between 2015 and 2018.
  • However, the first sign of a potential change came in 2019 when Liberia’s exports of sawnwood to China leaped from negligible levels to over 5,000 tonnes in the first ten months of the year.
  • At the JIC meeting in March 2019, the FDA stressed the importance of processing and value adding in the Liberian forest products sector and noted that consideration should be given to moving gradually towards ‘zero round log export’.
  • Parallel consideration will be given to providing incentives to stimulate local economic growth and job creation from by-products and residues resulting from processing.
  • The JIC meeting notes of November 2020 indicate there are circa 45 operational timber companies.

Trade Overview

  • According to the ITTO Biennial Review, national log production was stable at around 500,000 m3 between 2014 and 2018. Log production declined in 2020 to 451,000 m3. Log exports increased from a low of 106,000 m3 in 2016, to 136,000 m3 in 2017 and 201,000 m3 in 2018. Log exports decreased to 100,700 m3 in 2020.
  • Annual sawnwood production was also stable at around 132,000 m3 between 2014 and 2020. According to ITTO, sawnwood exports were negligible during this period and nearly all production was consumed in the domestic market.
  • There was no production of veneer or plywood in the country between 2014 and 2020. Exports of wood products other than logs were negligible during this period.
  • The log share of value has declined from over 98% in 2015 to 87% in 2020 and sawnwood has increased from less than 1% in 2015 to nearly 13% in 2020.

Imports

  • Liberia imported timber and timber products with a total value of around US$14.5 million in 2020, a decline from US$22.6 million in 2018.

  • Imports from China, the leading supplier, increased to US$6.5 million in 2020 from US$5.4 million in 2019. The main imports from China include sawnwood, paper products and wood furniture.

  • Imports of paper products from India amounted to US$1.6 million in 2020 a decrease from US$2.7 million in 2019.

Liberia’s imports by product group (data source: STIX)
Liberia’s leading import product flows (data source: STIX)

Exports

  • In 2020, Liberia exported timber products to the value of US$22.2 million, half the value of 2015 and nearly US$30 million less than in 2018.

  • Of a total export value of US$19.2 million in 2020, Liberia exported US$14.2 million of logs to China, compared to US$20.2 million the year before.

  • Other significant export markets for logs in 2020 included India ($1.9 million), France (US$1.3 million) and Turkey (US$0.5 million). In 2015 exports to Viet Nam amounted to $5.6 million and these declined to zero in 2020.

  • Sawnwood exports in 2020 amounted to US$2.2 million. The main markets were China (US$1.3 million) and India (US$1.1 million).

Liberia’s exports by product group (data source: STIX)

EU+UK Imports from Liberia

  • EU log imports from Liberia were US$2 million in 2020. Most EU imports from Liberia in 2020 entered via France (US$1.3 million) and Belgium (US$0.6 million).

  • Imports by Germany and Greece declined to zero in 2020 having both imported over US$0.5 in previous years.

EU+UK log imports from Liberia by destination
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)

Data Sources and Issues

Due to lack of regular data on timber product exports from Liberia, 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 Liberia’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