Over 60% and rising of global timber import trade is now covered by some form of market legality requirement, such as the EU Timber Regulation and the US Lacey Act. This has the potential to make such requirements, including the EU FLEGT Action Plan, increasingly relevant to supplier countries. But there is continuing concern that FLEGT itself is not sufficiently communicated or promoted in Europe.
These are some of the points that came out of the latest FLEGT Independent Market Monitor webinar ‘Tropical trade trends and FLEGT profile’.
With an audience of over 90, the event opened with an overview of tropical timber trade trends from IMM analyst Rupert Oliver. Total international timber and wood furniture trade, he said, had been surprisingly little impacted in value by Covid-19. It was down just 1.6% in 2020, with global demand and prices rising significantly as pandemic lockdowns were relaxed. International tropical timber trade actually grew 2%, underpinned, in particular, by exports from Viet Nam to the US, which have been running at $1 billion per month.
Looking at Indonesia, the only FLEGT-licensed country to date, Mr Oliver said its exports were hit in 2020 by a combination of pandemic and its impacts on logistics and freight rates, compounded by the closure of the Suez Canal. However, he pointed out, until before the Pandemic Indonesia’s sales to the EU had been increasing since it started licensing in 2016. He described this as an ‘encouraging sign from the perspective of the FLEGT licensing system’. Combine this with the fact that two thirds of the global timber import trade is now in countries with market legality requirements, he said, and it was ‘important to emphasise how extensive in terms of scale and engagement the FLEGT process and FLEGT related policy measures have become’.
IMM Lead Consultant Sarah Storck discussed some of the findings of the IMM’s four years of market surveys on trade between FLEGT VPA countries and the EU and market perceptions of the initiative. Its EU trade research showed significant improvement in awareness and understanding of FLEGT among importer operators and timber traders, although less so down the supply chain. In surveys, timber businesses also acknowledged FLEGT licensing made importing from Indonesia easier and a sizeable proportion said, all other factors being equal, they would give preference to licensed over unlicensed products.
However survey respondents were concerned that the EUTR, the key tool in driving market uptake of FLEGT-licensed products, was still not uniformly enforced across the EU. They were critical too of what they saw as lack of endorsement and promotion of FLEGT at all levels.
The UK Timber Trade Federation is widely regarded as one of the most active European trade bodies in FLEGT promotion and market education and Managing Director David Hopkins described some of the activities of its government-funded communication campaign. These included design projects aimed at the specifier audience using timber from VPA countries, multi-media articles and blogs and e-learning programmes. It is now developing a six-week forest and timber exhibition and Tropical Timber Manifesto, in both of which FLEGT will figure prominently, to target the COP 26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November.
FLEGT, said Mr Hopkins is essentially about improving forest and timber sector governance and the TTF’s FLEGT campaign is driven by the conviction that ‘without a proper system of governance we will never tackle the issues behind deforestation’.
Presentation 1. VPA partners in global & EU+UK trade (Rupert Oliver, IMM Trade Analyst, FLEGT IMM)
Presentation 2. Four years of IMM EU Surveys – Insights and Recommendations (Sarah Storck, IMM Lead Consultant, FLEGT IMM)
Presentation 3. The UK TTF – Promoting FLEGT (David Hopkins, Chief Executive, Timber Trade Federation)