FLEGT licensing a step nearer

20 May 2016

It’s been a long time waiting but finally it looks like we will be shortly seeing the first FLEGT licensed timber exports coming to the UK.

FLEGT was developed way back in 2003 as a tool to strengthen the market incentive to stop illegal logging. Voluntary Partnership Agreements between the EU and timber producing countries were seen as a way to help nations promote trade in legal timber products. Now Indonesia is almost over the finish line.

An announcement by the EU and Indonesian government on April 21 said they were ready to start licensing Indonesia’s timber exports to Europe. In doing so, Indonesia will become the first nation to get this through.

Indonesian government officials were in London this week to communicate the achievement and prep importers about this soon to become steady stream of legal tropical timber and panel products from Indonesia’s forest product industry.

Of course, Indonesia is a country that has been dogged by deforestation and illegal logging. So for it to get its act together and be first in the FLEGT licensing of timber exports to Europe is quite something.

TTJ was told by Indonesian officials that the UK would receive the first shipments, with exports hoped to get underway in about three months.

Elsewhere in this issue we have our Region Focus on North America, focusing on hardwoods and softwoods. US hardwood exports to the UK and Europe dipped in 2015 at a time when European currencies weakened sharply against the dollar. The contraction was across all the main species – including the high volume white oak, though walnut exports continue to grow.

But initial signs in 2016 are better and the long-term trend looks optimistic. Good work by the American Hardwood Export Council in its marketing and research efforts is helping to boost interest in US hardwood. This includes its American Hardwood Environmental Profiling tool called AHEP and its collaborations with architects to create stunning architectural installations. The US softwood industry is also developing its sales, marketing and technical story, with exports of southern yellow pine posting a record £260m in 2015, though sales to the EU were marginally down. The UK remains the second largest EU importer of southern yellow pine. Meanwhile, in our Preservatives Sector Focus we bring coverage from the Wood Protection Association’s annual meeting.

Issues covered at the meeting included the latest on creosote, with campaigners hopeful there remains a future for the treatment in industrial applications, though alternative products are being developed in the event of further restrictions on its use.

And more change is in the pipeline, with EN 350’s stipulations on durability of natural, modified and treated wood currently under revision.