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Assessing the current availability of third party verified products in the EU market is challenging since no system-wide data is regularly or systematically collected on the actual volume or value of trade in these products. The FSC and PEFC certification frameworks that might be expected to provide such data only publish information on the area of certified forest and the numbers of chain of custody certificates issued. 

The IMM 2018 trade survey analysed whether there were any perceived direct impacts from the introduction of FLEGT-licensing and the EUTR on imports of timber certified by private certification and legality verification schemes. Figure 1 shows that, according to respondents, private schemes, especially FSC, have profited to some degree from the introduction of EUTR. Several respondents remarked that, since EUTR was introduced, they have tended to prefer certified timber from countries where the risk of illegal harvest is considered non-negligible and certification is used as the principle mechanism to mitigate this risk.

Overall progress of third-party certification under the FSC and PEFC frameworks in VPA partner countries was slow before efforts to develop FLEGT licensing systems began and, in most countries, progress has remained slow during the period of TLAS implementation. Total FSC and PEFC certified area in all VPA Partner countries was 17.5 million hectares in 2018, up from 11.62 million hectares in 2012 and less than 3 million hectares in 2007. While the rate of increase is impressive, in 2018 less than 4% of total forest area in VPA partner countries was certified and around 80% of the certified area was in just two of the 15 countries, Indonesia (38%) and Malaysia (42%). 

IMM’s latest Annual Report, “FLEGT VPA Partners in EU Timber Trade 2018”, shows that the combined share of the VPA partner countries in global tropical wood products trade (all products in HS 44 and wood furniture products in HS 94) was 78.8% in 2018, slightly down from 78.9% in 2017 and 79.4% in 2016. This trend is set in the context of an 8% rise in global tropical wood products trade in 2018, to US$39.8 billion.

Ghana is at final joint assessment stage of its FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement and keen to promote its achievement, what it means on the ground and to counter ‘myths’ about the value of FLEGT. That was the message from Chris Beeko (pictured left) of the Ghana Forestry Commission, opening Workshop 3 of the Trade Consultation, which focused on FLEGT implementation progress in Africa and the experience of EU producers operating on the continent.

Like all manufacturing and construction materials and products, timber has to meet customer and specifier criteria on price, quality, performance and availability. But arguably more than most competing materials, it also has increasingly to satisfy procurement policy requirements on proof of legality and sustainability.

The opening workshop of the Barcelona consultation gave delegates the chance to discuss the state and outlook for FLEGT licensed timber; the challenges and opportunities, market constraints and how to tackle them. Titled “Trends in demand for VPA partner timber – Background, Reasons and Solutions”, the context for discussion was set by IMM Trade Analyst Rupert Oliver. He provided a statistical snapshot of the international market for timber from VPA partner and competing countries, with a particular focus on exports to the EU. 

The EU IMM Barcelona Trade Consultation gave voice to a range of Spanish trade opinion on prospects for VPA partner timber and market requirements for legality and sustainability assurance.

IMM has published a new scoping study on forest sector investment in VPA implementing (including Viet Nam and Honduras) and FLEGT-licensing VPA partner countries. The study is intended to provide a baseline for monitoring potential impacts of FLEGT VPA implementation and FLEGT-licensing on investment decisions in the forest and timber sector.

Forest sector investments are realized by a diverse set of investors. They all have the common aim to generate returns from economic activities related to forest management and wood processing. The underlying assumption of the study is that implementation of FLEGT VPAs attracts legal and sustainable forest sector investments, while reducing informal and illegal economic activities in the sector.

The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), the China Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA), together with the Centre for International Forest Products Trade, National Forestry and Grassland Administration (CINFT NFGA), and the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) will jointly organize a one-week international forum “Together towards Global Green Supply Chains - a Forest Products Industry Initiative”. The event takes place from 22-25 October in Shanghai and Huzhou and aims to promote the advancement of legal and sustainable supply chains and related benefits such as poverty alleviation, creation of employment, economic growth, income generation and contributions to climate change mitigation. 

A conference on “sustainable tropical timber” organised by IDH, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative as a part of the International Sustainability Week in June opened dialogue on “the differences and synergies of FLEGT and certification”. The discussion was part of a wider event attempting to analyse the development of sustainable tropical timber imports in Europe and discuss lessons learned from the FLEGT VPA process in Ghana. 

The attitudes of architects and specifiers on FLEGT Licensing will be the focus of the next EU FLEGT IMM market study. The rationale is that architects are widely regarded as key gatekeepers to the construction sector. They directly specify materials for buildings and can strongly influence client choice and overall design trends.  In particular, the profession, as clearly reflected in architectural media, has a strong buy-in on environmental issues and is leading and shaping trends in low-carbon, sustainable construction.