Last updated: 07 March 2020



Forestry and legality

Region Sub-Saharan Africa (2019) UNSD
FLEGT status VPA implementing (2019) FLEGT Facility
Forest area 4.2 million ha (2015) FAO
Deforestation rate 0.03 million ha/year (2010-2015) FAO
Planted area 0.008 million ha (2015) FAO
Tree cover loss 1.53 million ha (2001-2018) Global Forest Watch
Tree cover loss (%) 16 % (2001-2018) Global Forest Watch
Tree cover gain 108 kha (2001-2012) Global Forest Watch
FSC certified area 0 ha (December 2019) FSC
PEFC certified area 0 ha (December 2019) PEFC
Double certified area (FSC & PEFC) 0 ha (Mid-2019) FSC & PEFC

VPA status of Liberia

  • Liberia started VPA negotiations in 2009, agreed and signed the VPA in 2011, and ratified the VPA in 2013.

  • The FLEGT Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), comprising government, private and civil society representatives met in February 2019 for a briefing on the latest state of the VPA and to relaunch talks on implementation.

  • Among topics discussed were Liberia’s system for tracing timber from forest to point of export. Discussions also covered the government’s delay, attributed to budgetary constraints, in disbursing the legally required share of land rental fees to the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB).

  • It was generally acknowledged that the VPA process has increased stakeholder participation, including via the multi-stakeholder monitoring procedures and the JIC.

  • EU representatives described Liberia’s legal framework for sharing benefits with logging-affected communities as ‘exemplary’ and said stakeholders should cooperate in implementing it.

  • The Liberian Forestry Development Authority (FDA) committed to make more information available to the public. The JIC also endorsed a communications strategy targeting forest stakeholders and the public about VPA-related issues, including progress achieved and areas for improvement.

  • During 2019, the Liberian government began the process of taking over management of the Legality Verification Department (LVD) and the timber tracking system called LiberTrace from Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) the service provider.

  • However, the economic situation in Liberia deteriorated to such an extent in 2019 that stakeholders became concerned that it might threaten the future stability of the forestry sector and the VPA process.

  • Nevertheless, local and international actors continued to survey and help improve the forest sector. Donors are providing steady support to Liberia to implement the VPA and forestry-related policies and rules, such as the Land Rights Act, which offers communities hope that their traditional land rights will be protected.

  • The Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) has hired the consultants SOFRECO to conduct a review of logging concessions, contracts and agreements. In May 2019, SOFRECO began assessing the legality of concessions and agreements (Forest Management Contracts, Timber Sale Contracts, Private Use Permits and Community Forestry Management Agreements); the sustainability of the Liberian forests resource base; the financial and economic viability of the timber sector for the government and communities; and the sector’s commercial attractiveness for investment.

  • In the second half of 2019, a series of regional dialogues was organized by the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC), the National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB), and the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA) to obtain recommendations for improving existing laws, regulations, policies, agreements and operations of forest structures and companies from representatives of communities, companies and local and national government.

  • A range of issues including the roles and responsibilities of key forest stakeholders, benefit sharing mechanisms of forest resources, dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms in forest governance and experience sharing in noncompliance, interference and illegal logging were discussed.

Forest resources in Liberia

  • FAO estimated Liberia’s total forest area at 4.179 million hectares in 2015, which is 39% of the total land area. According to FAO, the rate of deforestation in Liberia remained quite consistent in the 25 years between 1990 and 2015, averaging 30,000 hectares per year.

  • According to FAO, Liberia has only 8,000 hectares of plantation, an area which remained unchanged between 1990 and 2015.

  • According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), from 2001 to 2018, Liberia lost 1.53 hectares of tree cover, equivalent to 16% decrease in tree cover since 2000. However, WRI also estimate that only 12% of tree cover loss during the period occurred in areas likely to be permanently deforested. Most tree cover loss was driven by shifting agriculture where trees are likely to become re-established.

  • According to ITTO’s 2010 Status of Tropical Forest Management report, the three main categories of vegetation cover in Liberia are mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semi-deciduous shrublands in the middle belt, and dense tropical forests and plateaux in the interior. The bulk of the forest is concentrated in two large blocks: evergreen lowland forests in the southeast, and the semi-deciduous mountain forests in the northwest.

  • The characteristic species of the moist evergreen forests are Lophira alata (azobé), Heritiera utilis (niangon) and Sacoglottis gabonensis (baill) as well as Lovoa trichilioides (African walnut) and Guarea cedrata (bossé). The semi-deciduous forests in the northern half of the country contain a higher representation of Meliaceae (mahagony).

  • According to data released by the FDA at the JIC meeting in March 2019, at that time out of a total 2.5 million hectares of forest that could potentially be allocated for commercial timber contracts, 1.1 million hectares had been assigned for commercial forestry and 411,000 hectares had been assigned for conservation forestry. Furthermore, FDA is making efforts to increase the area of conservation forestry to 1.5 million hectares in accordance with Liberian law.

  • An additional 1.2 million hectares are being allocated for the sustainable production of forest products by communities on a non-commercial basis. Full details of forest allocations are available at Liberia Forest Atlas.



Economic and industrial status

GDP 3.2 billion USD (2018) World Bank
Population 4.8 million (2018) World Bank
Income group Low income (2019) World Bank
Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Rank 175 / 190 (2019) World Bank
Global Competitiveness Index Rank unavailable / 141 (2019) World Economic Forum
Liner Shipping Connectivity Index 7.8 (maximum value in 2004 = 100) (2019) World Bank

Timber industry competitiveness of Liberia

  • Liberia’s economy suffered a significant reversal during 2019. According to the IMF, “political uncertainty and slippages” have had “a considerable impact on the economy over the past two years” and the private sector is confronted with “an inadequate and uncompetitive business climate, political uncertainty, and concerns about governance and corruption.”

  • GDP growth in Liberia declined from 2.5% in 2017 to 0.4% in 2019, according to the IMF, while inflation jumped by 11 percentage points over the same period to 24.5%. The agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors are all in the red. “These three sub-components have shrunk by 3.4%, and as the economy is in decline, this drop is putting pressure on the government’s ability to generate taxes,” according to the World Bank country manager.

  • News reports in late 2019 also highlight a litany of economic problems in Liberia. For example, according to AllAfrica, “Civil Servants are yet to take pay for more than 4 months (Some haven’t taken pay for even 11 months). Health workers and public school teachers, including university lecturers, are on strike everyday….Foreign companies and local businesses are shutting down due to economic downturn. More jobs are being lost….The economy is on life support as inflation and the depreciation of local currency are at an all-time high”.

  • The economic constraints are reflected in Liberia’s low ranking on international competitiveness indices. In 2018, Liberia was ranked 174th on the EBD index, 132nd on the GC index and 115th on the Connectivity Index.

  • To date Liberia has attracted no significant inward investment in wood processing and only logs were exported in any volume between 2015 and 2018.

  • However, the first sign of a potential change came in 2019 when Liberia’s exports of sawnwood to China leaped from negligible levels to over 5,000 tonnes in the first ten months of the year.

  • At the JIC meeting in March 2019, the FDA stressed the importance of processing and value adding in the Liberian forest products sector and noted that consideration should be given to moving gradually towards ‘zero round log export’.

  • Parallel consideration will be given to providing incentives to stimulate local economic growth and job creation from by-products and residues resulting from processing.

Trade Overview

Trade Overview


  • According to the ITTO Biennial Review, national log production was stable at around 500,000 m3 between 2014 and 2018. Log exports increased from a low of 106,000 m3 in 2016, to 136,000 m3 in 2017 and 201,000 m3 in 2018.

  • Annual sawnwood production was also stable at around 132,000 m3 between 2014 and 2018. According to ITTO, sawnwood exports were negligible during this period and nearly all production was consumed in the domestic market.

  • There was no production of veneer or plywood in the country between 2014 and 2018. Exports of wood products other than logs were negligible during this period.

  • However, sawnwood began to be exported from Liberia to China in 2019.

Liberia’s imports and exports of timber products in the latest 12 months (USD value from January 2019 to December 2019)

NOTE: Mirror data from STIX, drawing on trade data reported by Liberia’s main trading partners, is used. Read more about the data in ‘Data Sources and Issues’.
Hover over the chart to see the value.

Imports (11.2 Million USD) Exports (20.78 Million USD)
Region Country Product Product Country Region

Liberia’s production, imports, exports and domestic consumption of primary wood products in 2018

(data source: ITTO) Hover over the chart to see the value.

Trend in production, imports, exports and domestic consumption of primary wood products (logs, sawnwood, plywood, and veneer) in Liberia

(data source: ITTO)