TTJ reports UK hardwood sales improving
The UK hardwood trade may not be back to normal, and
there is continuing anxiety about the effect of a second
COVID-19 wave, but the sector has seen sales improving
since May. This is according to the latest
November/December 2020 hardwood market report in the
UK Timber Trades Journal: (TTJ - www.ttjonline.com ).
¡°In April we were at 40% of normal turnover, but we hit
60% in May, 80% in June and July was a good month, not
on budget, but ahead of last year,¡± said a UK importerdistributor.
¡°It¡¯s not business as usual yet, but we¡¯re in a
better place than anticipated four months ago.¡±
Another importer agreed. ¡°Our recovery to 85-90% of
normal sales was remarkably swift,¡± they said. ¡°In
September, while growth continued, it did start to plateau.
Local Covid lockdowns, and talk of a rise in
unemployment as government winds down pandemic
support measures are resulting in customer caution. So we
expect it will be tougher to claw back that final 10-15%
and that we¡¯ll be that much below budget for the year. But
we¡¯re still more positive than we were.¡±
As elsewhere in Europe, the strongest demand for
hardwood in the UK currently is coming from home
improvement and DIY. ¡°Consumers unable to go on
holiday are investing in their houses instead,¡± said a UK
importer. ¡°So we¡¯re seeing good sales to staircase, kitchen,
window and cladding manufacture and landscaping.¡±
In contrast, the shopfitting sector is weak. ¡°More robust
stores used lockdown to refurbish, but shopfitting overall
has taken some steps backward,¡± said an importerdistributor.
In terms of product, another said they¡¯d seen
best recovery in modified, engineered and semi-processed
While demand generally has been on the increase,
however, so too, it seems, have supply issues due to
¡°It¡¯s harder to buy wood from a lot of places than to sell
it,¡± said an importer. ¡°Sawmills reduced output due to
Covid. Importers also reduced or stopped buying for a
period. So there¡¯s a lot of inventory catch-up to be done,
but there isn¡¯t one continent where you can simply get
your product wish list.¡±
Another importer reported supply gaps. ¡°We haven¡¯t got
every thickness we need on the ground and don¡¯t expect to
have for weeks,¡± they said.
African supply to the UK has tightened due to mills taking
pandemic precautionary measures, plus, said one importer,
the UK¡¯s favoured species sapele being ¡®less abundant in
current harvesting cycles¡¯. The UK is ¡®well-stocked on
sapele, but not overstocked¡¯.
UK importers also report continuing disconnect between
sapele cost and selling prices. ¡°The cost price is firm, and
the pound weakening against the euro has had an
inflationary effect, but the market absorbs it,¡± said one
trader. ¡°Clearly some people need to turn stock into cash.¡±
UK importers are expecting sapele prices to gradually pick
up, followed by sipo, which had been weakening. Iroko
prices had also been drifting down but are now reported
stable. Due to mills¡¯ Covid measures, plus importers
earlier asking for orders to be held back, lead times on
African generally have extended.
Meanwhile, according to TTJ, the UK remains resistant,
compared to the rest of Europe, to secondary African
species and to engineered African products.
Asian prices are described as volatile by UK importers,
and freight rates from the region have also been rising.
¡°The Malaysian ringgit¡¯s fluctuation against the dollar has
made the situation very unpredictable,¡± said one importer.
¡°Prices are now level with three months ago, but they¡¯ve
been up and down several times in the interim.¡± Meranti
supply was described as tight due to lockdown and wet
weather impacting harvest.
European sawn hardwood production forecast to fall
25% this year
Speaking to the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF)
Temperate Hardwood Webinar on 18 November, Maria
Kiefer-Polz, Vice President for Hardwood at the European
Sawmillers Organisation (EOS) suggested that sawn
hardwood production in member countries may have
declined by up to 25% this year.
After a period of stability between 2016 and 2019, when
sawn hardwood production in EOS member countries
fluctuated between 5.44 million cu.m and 5.54 million
cu.m, EOS forecasts production will fall by up to 25% to
around 4.10 million cu.m in 2020, before rising around
20% to 4.79 million cu.m in 2021.
The forecast refers to total production in the 11 European
countries in the scope of EOS: Austria, Belgium,
Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia,
Norway, Romani and Sweden.
A significant fall in sawn hardwood production is
projected in all three of the largest European producing
countries which together account for more than three
quarters of all EOS production: France where production
is expected to fall 15% to 1.24 million cu.m; Germany,
where a 20% decline to 950,000 cu.m is forecast; and
Romania, with an expected decline of 44% to 900,000
Drawing on reports from national hardwood sawmillers
associations, Ms. Kiefer-Polz also informed the TTF
Webinar on the market situation for European sawn
hardwood in each of the three main producing countries.
In France, hardwood sawmillers report that demand in the
domestic and wider European market has slowed since
September. Although overall demand in Asia has been low
this year, a high proportion of oak logs continue to be
shipped to China. In the beech sector, there is weak
demand for lower grades. French sawmills are struggling
to procure ash logs as increasing quantities are now being
shipped to Vietnam.
German sawmillers report that the market has become
extremely unpredictable and volatile. As in France, large
quantities of German beech and ash logs are being
exported to China and Vietnam.
Demand for German sawn hardwood in the European
furniture sector has weakened with the decline in
manufacturing and sales during lockdown. However, the
German joinery sector has been very busy in the second
half of the year. Overall profits of German hardwood
sawmills are expected to be lower this year as costs have
risen. Some German hardwood mills may be forced to
In Romania, there is declining demand for sawn hardwood
in both China and the Middle East. Romanian sawmillers
report that buyers in both export regions are pushing for
lower prices. The market situation in Egypt is only slightly
During the summer months, the supply of logs in Romania
was very tight as half the harvesting companies have
closed. In the current situation, sawmills have little
incentive to sell and many are waiting on developments
and operating at much reduced capacity.
Ms. Kiefer-Polz noted that overall exports of sawn
hardwood by EOS countries declined sharply in the first
half of 2020, a trend affecting all the main export
destinations. Unlike in the softwood sector, European
sawn hardwood exports to the US did not experience any
increase in demand this year.
Exports of European sawn hardwood to the key Asian
markets, led by China and Vietnam, have been subdued
this year, particularly impacting on sales of lower grades
of oak. Sales to the North Africa and the Middle East have
also been weak, undermining demand for beech.
In addition to the COVID crises, European sawn
hardwood exports this year are impaired by the relative
strength of the euro against the dollar and other currencies.
Nevertheless, European sawmills continue to complain
about the high quantities of higher value hardwood logs
being exported to China (with volume of oak, ash and
beech in excess of 2 million cu.m in 2019).
According to Ms. Kiefer-Polz, log supply problems for
European hardwood mills are being made worse due to
severe drought in parts of central Europe which has
particularly damaged the beech resource, combined with
the impact of oak lace bug infestation and ash dieback.
European domestic markets for sawn hardwood are also
under pressure. Ms. Kiefer-Polz noted that ¡°the value of
EU27+UK wood furniture production was €42.5 billion in
2019, 1.4% less than the previous year¡±.
Furthermore, ¡°in retrospect, it seems the rebound in EU
wood furniture production following the 2008 economic
rises peaked as early as 2017, as 2019 was the second
straight year of decline. Last year, EU wood furniture
production was still 20% down, in real terms adjusted for
inflation, compared to the years just prior to the 2008
The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged market prospects
further in 2020 with many furniture retailers closed for
long periods during the crisis.
The situation in the parquet industry is not quite so
negative, but mixed, according to Ms. Kiefer-Polz.
Drawing from the most recent official statement by FEP
(European Parquet Federation), overall stable consumption
is forecast this year, helped by the continuing strength of
the housing market and renovation activities.
However, the recent upsurge in the pandemic which has
led to new lockdown measures throughout large parts of
Europe, is creating more uncertainty. There is also concern
about the long-term economic effects with the significant
build-up of government debt and rising levels of
unemployment across the continent.
Vandecasteele emphasise value of business model built on
resilience and sustainability.
The need to build a resilient business model in uncertain
times was the theme of a presentation by Isabelle Polfiet
and Genevieve Standaert of Vandecastele Houtimport, a
leading European wood importer and distributor based in
Belgium, to the Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition
webinar on 19 November.
The two speakers emphasised that while the effects of the
COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and wider society
have been devastating, there can be a silver lining for
companies that have focused on resilience and
sustainability in their business planning.
For the hardwood sector, they highlighted that the COVID
lockdown measures contributed to booming demand in the
European DIY sector as people, closely confined to their
own homes, have been encouraged to adapt and improve
their living environment.
On the other hand, the supply side has become very
challenging and prices for new stock have been rising. A
lot of tropical suppliers are struggling to deal with a
backlog of delayed orders, with containers regularly held
up at the ports.
Supplies from Brazil have been hit particularly hard, with
numerous cancelled contracts as logging operations were
curtailed earlier in the year and have now halted during the
They also suggested that ¡°Malaysia has been in continuous
lockdown since March and prices [for Malaysian sawn
wood] are expected to rise further¡±.
However, the market situation has been beneficial for
those companies in Europe, like Vandecasteele, that carry
stock, particularly if they have already invested in digital
product handling and sales.
According to the Vandecasteele representatives, the
company has built a stock holding of 120,000 cu.m of
timber, including over 81 species of tropical hardwoods.
Whereas 15 years ago, all buyers would physically inspect
consignments of timber before procurement, following a
large investment in IT systems at the company, all
transactions can now be carried out on-line.
At the same, Vandecasteele has made a policy
commitment to exceed environmental legislation and
support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in
its business activities, a commitment for which it was
recently awarded UN ¡°SDG Pioneer Certificate¡±.
It was emphasised that if ¡°sustainability means anything, it
surely means resilience ¨C shock resistance ¨C in the face of
threats such as to COVID. It also means that business
needs to be generation neutral, leaving the environment in
better shape for the next generation. This in turn requires
loyalty, to customers, suppliers, and staff¡±.
As part of their commitment, Vandecasteele aim to trade
only in ¡°certified sustainable¡± timber by 2025.
It was noted that ¡°EUTR was a wake-up call for us,
putting us under a lot of pressure and helping us push
forward with this transition¡± and suggested that ¡°we must
all be ambassadors for certified timber¡±.
However, it was also acknowledged that certification
¡°needs investment¡± and that Vandecasteele ¡°does not drop
suppliers¡±, preferring to ¡°work with them to find
solutions¡±. Vandecasteele¡¯s approach is to employ
consultants to identify gaps in certification capacity and to
work out solutions with their suppliers.
It was also noted that current shortages on the supply side
could be ¡°turned into an opportunity to promote certified
lesser used species¡While it takes a lot of time and effort
to encourage buying of lesser used species, using more
will improve livelihoods and reduce pressure on better
known commercial species.¡±
African timber industry support for healthcare
Recent reports have highlighted the key role that African
timber companies are playing to support the development
and maintenance of essential healthcare infrastructure
during the pandemic.
Tullia Baldassarri of INTERHOLCO AG, which is
headquartered in Switzerland and whose subsidiary IFO
manages 1.159 million ha of certified forest in Ngomb¨¦ in
the Republic of Congo (RoC), presented details of the
company¡¯s response to the COVID pandemic to the STTC
webinar on 19 November.
INTERHOLCO have invested in medical facilities and
equipment against increased incidence of the disease in
RoC. With strategies aimed at both prevention and
treatment, the focus has also been on health education and
sharing knowledge and best practice. It was noted that
there are over ,1200 workers at te IFO site in the northern
part of RoC, which is 800km from the capital Brazzaville.
The Ngomb¨¦ concession area also supports a much larger
population of 16,000.
Healthcare infrastructure in this region is limited, so
INTERHOLCO has developed a joint plan with the state
for prevention and mitigation of the COVID pandemic.
INTERHOLCO spent over €200,000 (FCFA francs 130
million) on pandemic measures, while the German
Development Corporation-backed Programme for the
Promotion of Certified Forest Management (PPECF)
¡°We raised further amounts through an international
crowd funding initiative,¡± said Ms. Baldassarri.
¡°Contributors included customers, NGOs and business
partners and we also had donations of PPE.¡±
Healthcare awareness raising and training was another
aspect of INTERHOLCO¡¯s strategy and, to ensure
continuity of supply, it set up a local tailors¡¯ cooperative to
make face masks.
INTERHOLCO said the exchange of information between
companies on tackling the crisis in the region has proved
invaluable. ¡°Also helpful were pandemic webinars
organised by IDH-the Sustainable Trade Initiative,¡± said
Ms. Baldassarri. ¡°Input from companies in Liberia was
particularly useful, given their Ebola experience.¡±
So far, incidence of Covid-19 in northern RoC has not
One reason for the relatively low impact of Covid-19 in
the area is thought to be demographics, with just 3% of the
population in Central Africa being over 65 compared to
20% in UK or France. But INTERHOLCO believes the
measures they¡¯ve taken, in association with other
companies and local authorities, have contributed to
curbing disease spread. Given the unpredictable course of
the pandemic, they know too that efforts must be ongoing.
According to a report by Mike Jeffree for the STTC and
Fair&Precious program, CIB-Olam has also been very
proactive in responding the pandemic in RoC, both in
support of its own workforce and the wider community.
The company has a direct and indirect workforce of 2000,
while the population of Pokola and surrounding region,
where it has its main facilities is 20,000. Local
communities around its other sites are home to a further
CIB-Olam¡¯s hospital in Pokola undertakes over 40,000
consultations every year, serving employees and local
populations, and its clinics at other operations, although
mainly for the workforce, also treat local people in serious
CIB-Olam says its spend to date on COVID response
measures has been €450,000 (CFA francs 300 million).
¡°We received €60,000 from the PPECF, and paid the rest
ourselves,¡± said Mr Istace. ¡°And we estimate we¡¯ll spend
around a further €100,000 this year.¡±
Elsewhere, Rougier in Gabon has set up hand-washing and
temperature check points, issued PPE and undertaken a
comprehensive health awareness programme. It¡¯s
pandemic strategy has also included setting up quarantine
zones at forest sites and liaison with the national Covid-19
Pallisco-CIFM in Cameroon has worked with
subcontractors and local communities to raise awareness
on social distancing and other preventative measures. It
has bought medical equipment and PPE and increased
medicine stocks at medical facilities near its sites.
Steps taken by Precious Woods, also in Gabon, have
included distribution of hygiene equipment, establishment
of temperature check points, investment in medical
equipment, introduction of social distancing measures and
compulsory wearing of facemasks on its vehicles.
Renewed interest in further processing in Central
An article by trade journalist and commentator Mike
Jeffree for the STTC and Fair&Precious highlights
renewed interest in further processing of tropical timber in
Central Africa prior to export.
Jeffree notes the ¡°growing government commitment in a
number of African countries to help their timber industries
transition from being primary material producers, to
become further processing, value added manufacturers¡±.
This was underlined at the September meeting of
CEMAC, the Economic Community of Central Africa,
where a proposal to ban log exports from the entire Congo
Basin on January 1, 2022 was approved by ministers from
the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon and
Central African governments also backed establishment of
economic zones for primary, secondary and third-stage
timber transformation and to set up the CRIB, the
Regional Committee for Sustainable industrial
Development of the Timber Industry.
Jeffree suggests that ¡°at the outset there was scepticism
about prospects for developing value-added tropical
timber production in Africa¡±. However, according to
Jeffree, ¡°companies in the field say they¡¯re proving the
It¡¯s still a work in progress, but further processing
operations are establishing a solid base and the resulting
products, made using latest machinery, are demonstrating
their technical credentials, cost and environmental
To drive the message home, Jeffree interviewed
Christophe Janssen, production manager and VP of sales
and production at INTERHOLCO which started making
FSC-certified finger-jointed laminated scantlings at its
IFO facility in Ngombe in the RoC in 2012.
Mr Janssen acknowledges that initially it wasn¡¯t an easy
sell: ¡°Established customers for logs and sawn timber
from our production were conservative and didn¡¯t want to
take a risk with these new products,¡± he said. ¡°People said
you couldn¡¯t do value added production in Africa, even
though it was established elsewhere in the tropics, in Asia
and South America. They assumed there would be glue
problems with scantlings, and they¡¯d cause machining
The key from the start was to focus on consistent quality
and performance. Some early engineered products from
other African producers, Mr Janssen acknowledged, had
not been the best. Some mixed species and used lesser
quality material for the central layer of laminated
scantlings, obviously a critical issue for window makers.
According to INTERHOLCO, European customers are
now reporting the benefits of African laminated scantlings.
¡°One Belgian window manufacturer couldn¡¯t compete in
plastic or aluminium with the big producers and was
struggling with tropical hardwood lumber because he
couldn¡¯t accurately calculate yield or costs,¡± said Mr.
¡°That changed with our laminated scantlings. They cut
waste and enabled the business to budget more effectively,
as well as produce a window that could take on the manmade
material competition in terms of consistent quality
and performance. He said it helped save the company.¡±
Utilising the range of species, says INTERHOLCO,
contributes to sustainable use of the forest and, it
maintains, these other varieties are cost competitive.
Expanding opportunities for lesser used certified
hardwoods in Europe
Responding to the overall decline in availability of the
commercially most popular tropical species, particularly if
certified, and the objective of improving returns to
sustainable tropical forest operations, tropical wood
marketing activities in Europe led by the STTC and the
ATIBT Fair&Precious campaigns are focusing heavily on
promoting lesser used species (LUS).
These activities combine testing of the technical properties
of LUS with close monitoring of market developments to
identify emerging niche applications for which these
species are well adapted and to allow targeted
This approach is well illustrated by a civil engineering
application testing program of a range of tropical certified
LUS at a marina facility in the Netherlands, on-going now
for 10 years which will soon come to fruition with
publication of a full set results on the STTC website in the
coming weeks (http://www.europeansttc.com/).
Funding for the testing program is from FSC Netherlands
and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, with
financial contributions from Van Swaay Harlingen BV,
GWW Houtimport BV and Precious Woods Europe BV
who also provided part of the timber in 2009.
The assessment was undertaken by the Stichting Hout
Research (SHR, a testing and knowledge institute for o.a.
timber) at the Houtexpo duurzame waterbouw site
(Sustainable wood for waterways expo) in Akkrum. The
latter was established in 2009 and forms part of a working
marina, so the material is effectively tested in real life
Some of the timber has been evaluated in water contact,
with a view to use in such applications as pile planking,
with other types tested in different forms, such as decking
and beams. A particular focus was to test the various
hardwoods in applications where they are currently not
Among the more than 20 species involved in the project,
which also included some temperate varieties, are
Muiracatiara, Sapupira, Angelim da Campina, Fava
Amargoza, Acariquar, Gindya udu (Tanimbuca) and
SHR undertook field evaluation of the timber in situ at the
Houtexpo, comprising visual inspection and strength and
resistance testing, followed by testing of samples at its
At the recent STTC webinar, it was highlighted that
additional new opportunities for tropical LUS in the
European market may arise from a forthcoming EU ban on
creosote for wood treatment.
John Williams, a Principal Consultant at the structural
engineering group, RSK, noted that it is highly likely that
the EU will ban creosote in 2021. He also mentioned that
the UK alone uses 10,000 cu.m of creosoted softwood
In response to the anticipated ban, end users are now
looking at cast concrete, steel or plastics as alternatives.
According to Mr Williams ¡°there may also be an
opportunity for tropical hardwood, but it will need
investment, determination and momentum¡±.
Mr Williams went on to say that ¡°this may be too much
for an individual private sector exporter, but possibly an
area that would benefit from government/forest
department funding. The industry already uses azobe/ekki,
but there are many candidates out there.
One alternative highlighted by Mr Williams was
okan/denya which, he said, ¡°has excellent strength and
durability and could be seen as a substitute for ekki/azobe
for many structural applications: bridge, rail and smaller
costal engineering projects¡±.
¡°We managed to prove D40 (BDS EN1912) strength
properties (bending strength as actually 49 N/mm2) which
is just short D50¡± and suggested that ¡°with a bit more
work it shouldn¡¯t be too difficult to get okan over the D 50
Gomb¨¦ is another African hardwood identified for further
market development in an article by Mike Jeffree prepared
for STTC and Fair&Precious. Drawing on an interview
with Emmanuel Groutel, head of sales development,
marketing and communication at Port Gentil-based
Compagnie des Bois du Gabon (CBG), the article
highlights just how wide ranging is the species, both in
terms of geography and potential applications.
CBG began its gomb¨¦ development programme seven
years ago, seeing significant commercial opportunities for
the timber, given its abundance and versatility.
¡°It¡¯s most common in Gabon, Cameroon and the Central
African Republic, but occurs across all West African
rainforest, from Liberia and Sierra Leone to the Republic
of the Congo,¡± said Mr Groutel. ¡°Greater quantities could
be exported with no adverse effect on sustainability.¡±
The company bills the species as an alternative to sapele,
African mahogany and dark red meranti and says it is
suited to make a wide variety of end products. The
extensive list on its website (www.cbg-wood.com) ranges
from plywood and veneers, through interior and exterior
(in ¡®temperate¡¯ areas) joinery, to mouldings, staircases,
coffins and vehicle and container flooring.
¡°Gomb¨¦ has good machining and finishing properties, it
poses no particular kilning issues, gives good screw and
nail retention, and it¡¯s suited to all the most commonly
used glues,¡± said Dr Groutel. ¡°It can also be peeled and
used to make finger-jointed and laminated components.¡±
Gomb¨¦ trees can grow over 50m high, and the trunk is
practically cylindrical for 20-25m from its short, thick
buttresses, resulting in well-shaped logs with diameters up
to 1.2m. ¡°The sapwood is whiteish to yellowish and the
heartwood salmon pink, sometimes with a few greenishbrown
veins,¡± said Dr Groutel. ¡°The grain is mostly
straight, with some occasional slight interlocking.¡±
CBG has been developing its production facilities so that a
significant proportion of its sawn timber output (in gomb¨¦
and okoum¨¦) is now kiln-dried and it is currently
upgrading drying facilities further. It has also overhauled
its dust extraction system and installed two new edge
CBG describes the market response to gomb¨¦ as positive,
with many customers placing regular repeat orders after
trialing the material. Main markets are currently China,
Italy, Spain, Pakistan, France and UAE. CBG says there
is potential to double production in response to demand.
Responding to EU demand for Environmental Product
The ATIBT, in association with member companies, has
initiated a project to develop Environmental Product
Declarations (EPDs) and Environmental and Health
Declaration Sheets (FDES) for construction products in
African tropical timber.
Called Dryades and backed by private and public sectors,
the aim is to improve products¡¯ commercial prospects in
an international market increasingly focused on
environmental impact and performance.
The initiative is being funded by the PPECF-COMIFAC
programme, which backs forest certification in the Congo
Basin, and ATIBT members Pallisco, Precious Woods,
CIB-Olam, IFO-Interholco and French timber trade
federation Le Commerce du Bois.
ATIBT General Manager Benoît Jobb¨¦-Duval said
Dryades had been prompted by growing government
requirement across Europe for evidence of construction
products¡¯ environmental credentials.
¡°In the particular case of France, when building product
marketing includes environmental performance
communication, manufacturers are required to issue an
EPD. This gives the product¡¯s complete environmental
profile, based principally on life cycle analysis (LCA),¡±
said Mr Jobb¨¦-Duval.
He added that, under France¡¯s new environmental
regulation RE2020, part of its strategy to ¡®decarbonize
construction¡¯, the sector will also have to detail the
environmental impact of new buildings throughout their
life and present the data in FDESs.
¡°Likewise, at European level, as part of the strengthening
of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), the
European Commission has drawn up a draft delegated act
to make environmental declarations compulsory within the
framework of the CE (European quality assurance)
marking of construction products,¡± said Mr Jobb¨¦-Duval.
The aim of Dryades is to help suppliers in Cameroon,
Gabon and Republic of the Congo put a range of
construction products through LCA, including flooring,
windows, doors and other joinery, leading to generation of
EPDs and FDESs.
The arrangement is yet to be finalised, but it is hoped that
it will also be able to draw on the tropical timber LCA
expertise and experience of Netherlands timber market
development operation Centrum Hout ¨C a potential
collaboration discussed at the 2019 STTC annual
The project is set to get underway later this year and to
deliver its first EPDs and FDESs by June 2021. ¡°Even if it
starts for the French market and there are small differences
between European regulations, we¡¯d ultimately like
Dryades to cover the needs of construction at European
level,¡± said Mr Jobb¨¦-Duval. ¡°Beyond LCB, a
contribution from European federations is possible to
extend the benefits of the project to other countries.¡±
ATIBT urges EU to step up efforts to tackle rise in illegal
The ATIBT is urging government and trade in Europe to
step up efforts to tackle an increase in illegal timber
imports. Currently, it maintains, the EU Competent
Authorities (CAs) with responsibility for monitoring and
policing imports are under-resourced and lack knowledge
of the trade.
In its call to action, ATIBT takes a new stand against the
illegal timber trade, the organisation says that ¡®import of
illegal wood into Europe is suddenly making a comeback¡¯.
¡°This is causing serious damage to an industry that has
been striving for two decades to make progress towards
sustainable management and promotion of legal and
certified timber,¡± it says. ¡°We need to be careful, because
we¡¯re witnessing a step backwards that is endangering our
The ATIBT maintains that those involved in the illegal
trade are widely known and said that its marketing
commission highlighted the need for a crackdown two
years ago in 2019. ¡°But to date, there is nothing to indicate
that measures are being taken at the European authority
level to stop the actions of companies that we all know,¡±
it says. ¡°In particular we need to work more closely with
customs and ports and raise their awareness regarding this
The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) is described as a key
tool in the fight against the illegal trade. But the ATIBT
maintains that enforcement is not sufficient to ¡®counter the
excesses of some of these players, which operate illegally
¡°The EUTR monitoring system does not work due to lack
of resources and knowledge about our sector,¡± states
ATIBT. The illegal trade, it adds, causes deforestation and
forest degradation and constitutes unfair competition for
certified logging companies. It also damages the market
image of the trade as a whole.
The ATIBT says that it and timber trade federations
¡®cannot act beyond our prerogatives¡¯ and create a ¡®black
list¡¯ of those involved in the illegal trade. It constitutes
large-scale organised crime and is thus the responsibility
of the EU and Interpol. However, it says that the
legitimate trade can play a role by expressing its views on
the issue and only buying legally and/or sustainably
¡°It is through certification systems that imports will be
100% reliable and ensure the future of our profession,¡±
ATIBT calls on European CAs to strengthen monitoring
and to target known illegal timber importers. ¡°We all
know the fight against illegality is an effective way to
reduce deforestation,¡± it states. ¡°Even if this trade affects
only a small share of imports, it needs to be eradicated.¡±