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The inclusion of a specific prohibition on buying illegal timber in China’s forest law revision has been greeted as an important advance by government and NGOs. But they also identify potential gaps in its provisions and say more detail on administration and enforcement will be needed before it can be judged whether the amended legislation brings a major new combatant into the battle against the international illegal timber trade. 

The EU Commission is calling for public feedback on EU action to tackle illegal logging. This “fitness check” will, according to the Commission “look at the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value of both regulations in contributing to the fight against illegal logging globally. It will also include the implementing regulations of both instruments as well as the delegated regulation on Monitoring Organisations and will cover all Member States and relevant third countries”. 

Overall the EU’s trade in tropical wood and wood furniture products was more buoyant in the first nine of months of 2019 than the same period in 2018. In terms of US$ value, the biggest gains in the market were made by Indonesian products, particularly wood furniture and doors. 

The Ghanaian timber sector has unveiled a marketing initiative to communicate legality and sustainability assurance advances made under its FLEGT VPA to EU customers, preparatory to Ghana starting FLEGT licensing. The ‘Message House’ has been developed by the Kumasi Wood Cluster (KWC) and Ghana Timber Millers Association (GTMA) with support from government,  civil society and the UNFAO EU FLEGT Programme. Its aim, they say,  is to highlight the measures and reforms the country has undertaken to meet EU requirements in order to help business capitalise on market opportunities and ensure FLEGT licensing delivers commercially. 

Fort Builders Merchant, a new business just launched by former UK Timber Trade Federation President Keith Fryer, is applying its own ‘Fortified’ eco-label to FLEGT-licensed and FSC and PEFC-certified timber without differentiation. The aim is to simplify and cut the cost of legality and sustainability assurance.  IMM interviewed Mr Fryer on the company’s innovative move. 

As the title Reducing risk, improving supply suggests, the UK Timber Trade Federation’s recent Tropical Timber Forum had a dual focus. Ensuring tropical timber legality and sustainability was recognised as core to success in the modern marketplace. But the emphasis was also on the interaction of this and the broader commercial viability of the sector and how it needs to adapt ensure availability and remain competitive. 

If steel and concrete road fixtures and fittings, including lamp and signposts, crash and acoustic barriers were made of wood, and hardwood in particular, it would add up to major timber demand and major CO2 savings.  That’s the blueprint the Dutch Ministry of Logistics and Waterways has devised, following stakeholder discussions, among others, with  Netherlands timber sector market development organisation, Centrum Hout. It’s done the carbon calculations, called the concept the ‘circular bio-based highway’ and Steffen Meinhardt of Dutch importer Hupkes Houthandel presented on it at the 2019 International Hardwood Conference in Berlin.

The 11th meeting of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) between the Republic of the Congo and the European Union was held in Brazzaville on 20-21 November 2019. The aide-memoire of the meeting has been made available on the FLEGT VPA website.

While still dwarfed by domestic production and exports, Indonesia’s imports of timber and timber products are rising in several product groups. Total Indonesian imports of timber and timber products increased 35% to 4.23 million tonnes between 2015 and 2018. In value terms, imports increased 16% to US$1.52 billion. Much of the growth in import quantity has been concentrated in wood (HS 44) products, with a particularly dramatic increase during 2017.

The first IMM EU trade survey in 2017 identified several administrative issues that may have had an impact on the market for FLEGT-licensed timber in the early stages after implementation. First and foremost, there were delays in clearance of shipments for circulation on the European markets due to FLEGT-license mismatches. Some companies also had difficulties adapting to the new administrative procedures involved in importing FLEGT-licensed timber and called for a fully electronic process to reduce administrative effort. Besides these administrative issues, lack of awareness of the Indonesian FLEGT VPA and what it means on the ground was frequently mentioned as undermining market development. 

The question of where FLEGT stands in relation to voluntary third-party certification is frequently raised in discussions during IMM Trade Consultations and in interviews conducted as a part of IMM surveys. Is the FLEGT VPA process “a step backwards” because it focuses on demonstrating compliance to national forest laws rather than to international “sustainable forestry” principles that are the basis for forest certification systems? Or is the FLEGT process “better” than voluntary certification, because it is mandatory, better placed to achieve a broad national stakeholder consensus on forest management standards integrated with national regulatory and fiscal frameworks, and helps to ensure equitable access for all forest operators? 

The FSC Controlled Wood System was first introduced in 2004 alongside introduction of the FSC Mix label which allows, under controlled conditions, the mixing of FSC certified material with uncertified material in FSC labelled products. The non-certified portion must comply with the FSC Controlled Wood standards which enable manufacturers and traders to avoid timber and timber products from unacceptable sources. The Controlled Wood requirements are an integral part of FSC chain of custody (CoC) certification which, at the end of 2018, applied to 40,000 operators worldwide, including nearly 20,000 in the EU.