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VPA helps free up Thai smallholders to sell timber

One outcome of Thailand’s EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement is a change in forestry regulation, freeing up smallholder farmers to sell timber from private land, according to a report from the European Forestry Institute FLEGT Facility (www.euflegt.efi.int).

Smallholders had been unintended victims of Thai strategies to combat deforestation, starting with a ban on logging in all natural forests in the late 1980s. This led to a decline in timber supply to the domestic market.  Efforts were made to support communities and private land holders in providing an alternative timber supply. But the regulations stipulated that they could not cut or transport timber unless their land was registered with the Royal Forest Department then inspected and local authorities informed prior to harvest. The complexity of compliance – coming up with the right documentation to prove the legality of timber grown on their land – effectively blocked them from the market. 

But, according to the FLEGT facility report, the situation now looks set to improve following changes in forestry law in 2019 related to reforms coming out of Thailand’s VPA. The issue has been pressed by the Private Forest Plantation Cooperative  (PFPC), which represents tree-growing farmers and private land owners. 

“We were aware of limitations around harvesting and transportation of certain tree species and we’ve been pushing for amendments to forest laws to improve the situation for farmers,” said Yingluk Patibhanthewa, Chair of the PFPC. “When the Government started to review the forest law in Thailand as part of timber trade negotiations with the EU, it was a good time for us to raise this topic again and we achieved some early results, positively impacting the lives of our farmers.”

The change in the rules means that farmers can now legally harvest all trees on their land without having to inform the Royal Forest Department first.  Following on from this, new mechanisms  are being piloted to enable them to prove their timber originates from their land and so is legally sourced. Farmers say that the reforms will incentivise them to plant more trees.

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