Indonesian exhibition row over timber legality system

15 March 2016

A row erupted at last week’s IFEX 2016 Furniture Show over the Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK) for Export Licensing in Indonesia, according to a TTJ contact in the region.

Indonesia was one of the first countries to start negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process.

This March saw all the SE Asian furniture shows taking place including IFEX in Jakarta, supported by the furniture association AMKRI, where it was expected that SVLK licensed products would dominate. Accordingly, the multi-stakeholder Forestry Programme (MFP) team in Jakarta organised a public dialogue at the show initially promoted by the organisers and then unilaterally cancelled by the organisers at short notice, allegedly on the orders of AMKRI.

A press statement was issued by exhibitors of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry booth, promoting 15 small and medium furniture, handicraft and social forestry enterprises.

It said IFEX 2016 "does not support sustainability of Indonesian forests," and strongly protested at the cancellation of the seminar.

"The unilateral cancellation represents huge disadvantage, as SVLK, in Indonesia is under government policy and has been perfected for the past 10 years, with the specific aim of keeping Indonesia's forests sustainable, and to bolster Indonesia's timber and wood products' bargaining position in the global market," they said.

The exhibitors demanded a public apology and said they were considering legal action.

When the EU introduced its EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) under the FLEGT Action Plan in March 2013 it was warned that including furniture would pose problems for small producers and for those making furniture with composite and various materials.

Recently the Indonesian Minister of Trade re-confirmed that SVLK would not be required for furniture. That is now in the process of being reversed by the Trade Ministry over the next few months.

Meanwhile sources close to the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council (AFIC) have recently expressed their collective frustration that while Asian countries have been "put through many hoops" to comply with EUTR, there have been no prosecutions in Europe for imports of products deemed illegal.