Country Profiles

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VPA COUNTRY

Republic of Congo

VPA Status: FLEGT Implementing

vpa status history
  • The Republic of Congo (RoC) has made significant steps towards completing implementation of the VPA in the last few years.
  • By 2018, 29 forest concessions out of 60, comprising 10.4 million ha, or 68% of forest allocated to commercial use, had implemented or were developing sustainable management plans as a part of VPA implementation.
  • In 2018, the EU and RoC released a 2018-22 implementation strategy, including VPA communication plans, and renewed focus by the Ministry of Forest Economy on ‘optimising forest revenue collection’ as part of reforms.
  • Stakeholder engagement was strengthened by the country’s Sustainable Forest Management Platform and a new Congo VPA Facebook page.
  • A meeting of the VPA Joint Implementing Committee (JIC) in November 2018 included a presentation on the status of the VPA’s legality verification framework. Of 29 indicators for monitoring implementation of the system, six are in progress, with work on the others at an early stage or not started. The FLEGT VPA unit urged allocation of more funds to the process.
  • The JIC November 2018 meeting also included reports on forest code revision and the computerised legality and traceability verification system, which was ready for deployment.
  • Ongoing problems with legality verification system (SVL) compliance due to regulatory capacity issues were reported in November 2018 by the Independent Auditor (contract managed by the French auditing company SOFRECO). Also highlighted was that many forest operations still lacked management plans. 
  • The JIC November 2018 meeting underlined that there is continuing support for the VPA process from government ministries, with representatives highlighting potential outcomes, including tax gains and EU market development for further processed wood products.
  • In 2019 an inter-ministerial technical group was established to prepare the national roll out of the electronic timber information management system.
  • Also in 2019 the Independent Auditor carried out three audits, one in the general directorate of the Ministry of Forest Economy, one in the Forest Legality and Traceability Unit, and one in the regional offices of Labour, Social Security, Trade, and Customs in the Niari region.
  • The 12th JIC meeting was held in November 2020. It noted significant progress with deployment of the timber legality system, training of forestry companies and Departmental Directors. It also included validation of the draft manual of procedures for the approval of private certification systems in the Legality Verification System of the VPA.

Forest Resources

Forest area (2020) 21.95 mil. ha
Deforestation rate (2010-2020) -0.0129 mil. ha/year
Planted area (2020) 0.06 mil. ha
Tree cover loss (2001-2020) 851,000 ha (3.2 %)
Tree cover gain (2001-2012) 46,700 ha
FSC certified area (August 2021) 2,989,169 ha
PEFC certified area (August 2021) 0 ha
Double certified area (FSC & PEFC, August 2021) 0 ha

Source: FAO, Global Forest Watch, FSC, PEFC

  • Total forest area was 21.95 million hectares in 2020 out of a total land area of 34.15 million hectares according to FAO. ITTO’s 2010 Status of Tropical Forest Management report put the extent of dense humid forests at 18.5 million hectares with an additional 8.4 million hectares of forest-cropland mosaic, forest-savanna mosaic and semi-deciduous miombo forests. There are also an estimated 1,670 hectares of mangroves.
  • According to FAO, forest area declined by 13,800 hectares per year between 2015 and 2020. The main causes of deforestation are slash and burn practices, fuelwood production, illegal logging, and urban development.
  • These causes, together with underlying factors like population growth, poverty, lack of alternative sources of energy, and the lack of common vision on land-use planning among stakeholders, continue to damage the forest resources.
  • According to ITTO, the smaller area of southern forests (about 4.4 million hectares) are rich in Aucoumea klaineana (okoumé)‚ Terminalia superba (limba), Pycnanthus angolensis (ilomba) and Entandrophragma utile (sipo). However, after more than 100 years of harvesting, these forests are very degraded and are now utilised primarily by smaller national operators.
  • The northern forests (16.5 million hectares) contain red hardwoods, especially Entandrophragma utile (sipo), E. cylindricum (sapelli) and Millettia laurentii (wengé), as well as lighert hardwoods (e.g. Triplochiton scleroxylon – ayous).
  • Northern forests are less degraded and are allocated into larger industrial concessions, each averaging approximately 400,000 hectares that have already implemented or are preparing forest management plans.

Industry

GDP (2020) 10,884.69 million USD
Population (2020) 5.52 million
Income group (2020) Lower middle income
Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Rank (2020) 180 / 190
Global Competitiveness Index Rank (2019) – / 141
Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (maximum value in 2004 = 100) (2019)
25.6

Source: World Bank, World Economic Forum

Timber Industry Competitiveness

  • The wood processing sector is comprised of large-scale forest enterprises linked to international markets. These companies operate alongside small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that provide the semi-finished or finished products for the local market.
  • ATIBT reports there are around 30 larger exporting companies operating in 2020, along with 15 small or medium sized operations and around 600 artisanal processors – both selling primarily to the domestic market.
  • Low levels of national competitiveness have contributed to only limited investment in wood processing capacity in the country and heavy reliance on exports of primary wood products.
  • The country is either not rated at all or ranked very low on international competitiveness indices. In 2020, RoC was ranked 180th out of 190 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.
  • However, on the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index, in 2019 the Republic of Congo (25.6) had become the regional leader, ahead of Cameroon (16.3), Ghana (19.8), Côte d’Ivoire (18.8) and Gabon (14.7).

Trade Overview

  • According to the ITTO Biennial Review, national log production was relatively stable at around 2.2 million m3 between 2014 and 2020. Log exports amounted to 784,000 m3 in 2020 having increased from 642,000 m3 in 2014 to a high of 941,000 m3 in 2017 and 895,000 m3 in 2018.
  • Sawnwood production was 303,000 m3 in 2020 (down from 400,000 m3 in 2018 and lower than the previous five years when production fluctuated around 350,000 m3). According to ITTO, sawnwood exports remained quite flat, at around 170,000 m3 per year between 2015 and 2018 and grew slightly to 222,000 m3 in 2020.
  • There is only limited veneer and plywood capacity in the country with ITTO estimating production of 29,000 m3 in 2020 (down from 66,000 m3 in 2018) and 8,000 m3 (down from 30,000 m3 in 2018) respectively. Negligible volumes are exported.

Imports

  • The Republic of Congo imported timber and timber products with total value of around US$49.4 million in 2020, up from US$46.5 million in 2019 but a decline from US$82.7 million in 2015.
  • A large proportion of imports are from China including, in 2020, US$14.9 million of paper, US$3.4 million of furniture and US$1.5 million of secondary processed wood products.
  • A further US$7.2 million of paper was imported from Indonesia.
  • From the EU27+UK, the majority of imports comprised paper (notably from France and Italy) and wood furniture (notably from Italy and France).
Republic of Congo’s imports by product group (data source: STIX)
Republic of Congo’s leading import product flows (data source: STIX)

Exports

  • In total, RoC exported timber products with a value of around US$386 million in 2020, significantly less than the previous year (US$464 million).
  • The decline was due to a 10% fall in exports to China, to US$223 million, plus a decline to Viet Nam (US$72 million to US$51 million), and to the EU27+UK, from US$104 to US$79 million.
  • In 2020, 62% of all timber product export value comprised logs with most of the remainder sawnwood (33.5%) and veneer (2%). 
  • In 2020, timber and timber product exports were destined mainly for China (almost 58% of value), the EU27+UK (20%), and Viet Nam (13%).
Republic of Congo’s exports by product group (data source: STIX)

EU+UK Imports from Republic of Congo

  • In 2020, EU27+UK imports from RoC of logs amounted to US$18.1 million (US$21 million in 2019), sawnwood decreased to US$46.1 million (from US$65.1 million), and veneer decreased to US$8 million (from US$11.5 million). Secondary processed wood products have slowly increased from US$1.4 million in 2015 to US$6.9 in 2020.
  • The leading EU27+UK destinations for RoC timber products in 2020 were Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Pandemic related logistical problems contributed to a particularly large fall in UK imports from RoC during the year. 
EU+UK imports from Republic of Congo by product group
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)
EU+UK imports from Republic of Congo by destination
(data source
: Eurostat COMEXT)

Data Sources and Issues

Due to lack of regular data on timber product exports from the Republic of Congo, the statistics shown in this IMM report draw on import data from major timber trading partners mainly in the EU, Asia and America. While these countries include RoC’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