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“FLEGT-licensed timber going from distant promise to physical reality restored faith”, one importer told IMM during the 2017 European survey. And that it is Indonesia doing the licensing also changed mind-sets. If such a large, complex country could do it, the view was that others could too.

The fact that the start of FLEGT-licensing in Indonesia has revived trade interest in FLEGT is an encouraging finding of the first round of comprehensive market surveys conducted by IMM in seven key EU consumer markets – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK – which together account for around 90% of EU imports from VPA partner countries. A previous IMM pilot survey in Germany, Spain and the UK in 2015 had found more widespread frustration and “FLEGT-fatigue”, as repeated forecasts about the start of licensing had come to nothing at that time.

A year on since Indonesia began FLEGT licensing timber exports to the EU, and one EU FLEGT national Competent Authority (CA) commented that introduction of the licensing system had been ‘remarkably smooth and uneventful’. This seems to be the consensus among most Indonesian exporters and EU importers and their respective authorities. At the same time, perhaps inevitably for any new administrative system, particularly one that involves an international spread of businesses and authorities and so many different products, both parties agree that there have been some initial issues with implementation and operational teething problems.

A quick guide to how the VPA was implemented and works

When Indonesia started issuing FLEGT licences last November, verifying the legality of its timber exports to the EU prior to despatch, it was billed as a milestone in global efforts to combat illegal logging and illegal wood products trade.  Since then the country and its FLEGT licensing system has attracted attention from across the global timber trading community and interested parties, mainly from Indonesia’s export markets and other countries engaged in the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement initiative (FLEGT VPA), but not exclusively.

IMM has released a major new report on “FLEGT VPA Partners in EU Timber Trade 2014 to 2016” which updates key forest resource and trade data contained in the 2015 IMM report on “Europe's changing tropical timber trade”. The two reports together assess the baseline conditions for entry into the EU market of FLEGT licensed timber.

"Europe’s changing tropical timber trade", a report by IMM published as part of the ITTO Technical Series in 2015, establishes the baseline for long term monitoring of market impacts of FLEGT licensing, describing the evolution of the market for timber from VPA partner countries in the EU between 2004 and 2013. The report quantifies VPA countries’ shares in relevant sections of the EU timber market including logs, sawnwood, decking, mouldings, veneer, plywood, joinery products, furniture, pulp and paper. It identifies and weights the wide range of factors impacting on the availability of tropical timber from VPA countries and the demand for these products in the EU. It establishes the position of the FLEGT licensing process within the wider context of social, economic and environmental developments influencing the international tropical timber trade.