The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) said loggers have to now bear the costs of generating new forest management plans, verifying timber and issuing a legality licence that meets the requirements of the EU and US.

"This would amount to about US$5,000 per community forest – representing the average annual earnings of 10 community members," said Richard Eba’a Atyi, CIFOR scientist.

Local officials in Cameroon who grant forest titles could help alleviate some of these costs by providing technical support during development of new forest management plans, he said.

Central Africa represents one of the biggest shares of tropical timber imports to the European market. Improved regulation initially had backing in the region.

"We saw this as a welcome development, but very quickly began to realise that there could be another side to the story," said Samuel Assembe-Mvondo, another CIFOR official.

"Without assistance, small-scale loggers will be driven out of business," he said.