The warning came from European Timber Trade Federation secretary-general André de Boer at a meeting of ITTO’s trade advisory group in Japan.

Mr de Boer gave an importers’ perspective on the global tropical timber market.

"Our statistics seem to indicate a tendency that the market is moving away from tropical timber," he said.

"One has to be careful to draw conclusions too soon. We must further analyse data and monitor developments over the longer term, but, from the latest trends, there do seem to be reasons for concern."

Meanwhile, Mr de Boer also praised Japan’s GOHO legal wood initiative – a private sector scheme binding companies to a set of rules to exclude illegal timber from their supply chains.

"It is very important that Japan takes such an initiative, as it ranks as one of the largest markets in the world, and it is welcomed by others, such as the US and the EU.

"But it has the inherent weakness that it is a voluntary scheme and only applies to the members of the federations involved."