Timber industry leaders in Ghana have been told to “get legal or lose markets” by a delegation of European timber buyers led by the Timber Trade Federation (TTF).

More than 50 Ghanaian timber producers attended the first in a series of Africa-wide trade forums to hear how international timber markets are changing.

Market research commissioned by the TTF shows that the six biggest European markets for Ghanaian timber are now demanding independently verified legal timber from suppliers and, if possible, certified sustainable timber.

TTF corporate social responsibility adviser Andy Roby said: “More importantly buyers are beginning to pay a premium for such timber. This demand is being pushed along by EU member state governments’ timber procurement policies that dictate buying decisions in at least 20% of the EU market.”

In addition, he said, the EU’s new FLEGT regulation will exclude unverified timber from countries participating in the voluntary partnership agreements.

Mr Roby said the good news for Ghana was that it was well placed to meet the challenge with initiatives including a new log tracking system, independent auditing for timber harvesting practices and clarification of timber ownership already under way.

Further forums are planned at two venues in Africa and the project will conclude with a conference in Brussels in October.