European decision-makers have been warned of dire consequences for the environment if they do not support African timber industry moves towards sustainability.

The Interafrican Forest Industries Association (IFIA), which incorporates 17 major European groups representing 24 companies in central and west Africa, says the insensitivity of the “vast majority” of Asian markets to environmental problems has resulted in forest product exports to Europe being increasingly less attractive to African operators.

IFIA warns that if this negative current develops in volume it may cause a retreat of European investors in the African industry, leaving forest activities in the hands of operators less concerned about environmental issues.

It also urges European decision-makers to welcome and promote African national forestry companies; strengthen and harmonise forestry politics, legislation and forest taxation; and reinforce the promotion of African wood consumption in markets.

IFIA has produced a code, already signed by seven companies, for independent monitoring, verification of legal production and engagement in a long-term forest managment process. It was presented in Douala, Cameroon, on March 1-2.

It has also appealed to certification schemes such as Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, the Forest Stewardship Council and Keurhout, to recognise the African Principles, Criteria and Indicators, drawn up by the Centre for International Forest Research/Organisation Africaine du Bois and supported by African government members of the African Timber Organisation.