Illegal wood for the European market

Posted on 22 July 2008
Illegal wood for the European market
© WWF
Where does the illegal wood of the European Union come from?
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, says the new WWF report “Illegal wood for the European market”.

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.

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. Second position is held by Indonesia, followed by China and Brazil. As main country of the transit, China has recently become a major player having tripled its exports of wood and paper products to the EU between 2003 and 2006 (from 4 million m³ in 2003 to 11.5 million m³). A greater proportion of its wood comes from so-called high-risk regions like the far east of Russia, South East Asia and Africa, with a high probability of illegal origin.

The study conducted by the conservation organization also highlights the environmental as well as the socio-economic consequences that such a pervasive trade of illegal wood and wood based products has on the regions of origin and the local communities and denounce the ineffectiveness of the existing EU Forest and Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licensing Scheme in stopping it. As reported, 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.

WWF urges the introduction of EU legislation to guarantee that only legal wood is traded in the European market. A legislation proposal is planned for the 10 September 2008.
Illegal wood for the European market
© WWF Enlarge

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