Too much illegal wood in EU markets - WWF



Posted on 22 July 2008
Brussels, Belgium: Almost one-fifth of wood imported into the European Union in 2006 came from illegal or suspected illegal sources, with Russia, Indonesia and China being the main sources, says a new WWF report. The global conservation organisation calls for strong European legislation to prevent illegal wood entering the EU markets.

In 2006, the European Union imported between 26.5 and 31 million cubic metres of wood and related products from illegal origins, equivalent to the total amount of wood harvested in Poland in the same year. In all, 23 per cent of wood-based products imported from eastern Europe, 40 per cent from South East Asia, 30 per cent from Latin America and 36-56 per cent from Africa originated from illegal or suspect sources. Major importers are Finland, UK, Germany and Italy.

Illegal logging destroys the protective function of forests, increasing risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, and leads to deforestation, one of the main causes for climate change. Illegal logging also pushes wood prices down resulting in major economic losses for states, industries and local communities, said Anke Schulmeister, WWF Forest Policy Officer. Strong measures are needed at EU level to protect the worlds remaining forests and our own future.

The study highlights the ineffectiveness of the existing EU Forest and Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licensing Scheme in stopping trade in illegal wood. Even if all Voluntary Partnership Agreements currently negotiated by the EU with partner countries under FLEGT were concluded, about 90 per cent of illegal wood would still enter the EU markets. No such negotiations are planned with countries like Russia and China and many products that are manufactured from illegal wood (eg. furniture and other ready processed wood products or paper) are not covered by FLEGT regulation.

The report traces the ten main routes for illegal wood trade. The main trader is Russia with 10.4 million cubic metres of illegal or suspicious wood transferred to EU countries in 2006. Almost half of this wood arrived in the European market through Finland, where it was processed into pulp and paper and then exported to the other EU countries. While second position is held by Indonesia, China has recently become a major player having tripled its exports of wood and paper products to the EU between 2003 and 2006 - 32% suspected to be from illegal sources. Meanwhile China imports the greater proportion of its wood from so-called high-risk regions like the far east of Russia, South East Asia and Africa, with a high probability of illegal origin.

WWF urges the introduction of EU legislation to guarantee that only legal wood is traded in the European market. Traders should prove the origin and legality of wood and penalties should be introduced for any violation. The European Commission is expected to propose legislation on this issue in the coming months.

For further information:
Anke Schulmeister, WWF Forest Policy Officer, Tel. +32 (0) 2 740 09 22, email: aschulmeister@wwfepo.org
Stefania Campogianni, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office, Tel.+32 (0)2 743 88 15, Mob: +32 (0) 499 539736, email: scampogianni@wwfepo.org

Notes to editors:
-The EU adopted the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan in 2003 to combat illegal logging and the associated trade. Licensing regulations in the framework of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with producer countries seek to exclude illegal timber from being imported into the EU. Negotiations in this area are ongoing with Ghana, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Malaysia.
-The WWF report estimates that 16-19 per cent of wood imports in the European Union in 2006 came from illegal sources - between 26.5 and 31 million m³. Estimated illegal wood imports amounted to 10.4 million m³ from Russia, 4.2 million from Indonesia and 3.7 million from China.
-Chinas exports to the EU of legal and illegal wood and related products amounted to 4 million m³ in 2003 and 11.5 million m³ in 2006.
-The biggest amount of illegal wood or wood of suspicious origin comes from Russia to Finland. Motivated by this fact, WWF Finland, WWF Russia and the Finnish Forest Industries Federation (FFIF) in 2006 started negotiations aimed at improving the tracing system of Finnish companies operating in Russia to combat the illegal trade of wood.
Illegal logging contributes heavily to the destruction of biodiversity and the impoverishment of millions of people that depend on forests for food and income. Madre de Dios, Peru.
© WWF-Canon / André Bärtschi Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required