ITTC 54 Council Update: More cooperation needed to promote sustainably produced tropical timber
Tropical timber producers, importers, governments and communities need to work more closely together to increase the impact of efforts to promote the benefits of sustainably produced tropical timber in consumer markets.
This was the message to emerge from the 2018 ITTO Annual Market Discussion, which took place today as part of the 54th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council. ITTO hosts these discussions annually as a way of informing its members of key trends and issues in the tropical timber trade and increasing interactions between governments and trade representatives.
The 2018 Discussion, which was organized by the Trade Advisory Group, addressed the theme of private-sector tropical timber promotion initiatives and opportunities for increased collaboration.
“Today’s presentations and discussions show there would be major advantages for the sector if tropical timber producers, tropical timber traders and other stakeholders could combine their messages,” said Discussion Chair, André de Boer. “We need to present a united front to convince consumers of the very real advantages of using sustainably produced tropical timber.”
Participants in the Discussion heard that, despite advances in sustainable tropical forest management, certification and legality verification, the tropical timber trade faced major challenges, such as changes in species mixes and preferences and declining market share in the face of competition from engineered wood and alternative non-wood materials.
The Discussion featured presentations from seven trade experts and representatives of trade organizations.
Benoît Jobbé-Duval from the International Tropical Timber Technical Association
(ATIBT) provided background on activities ATIBT is carrying out to establish a “Fair and Precious” brand for tropical wood products. The aim of the initiative, which has been conceived by Forest Stewardship Council-certified member companies of ATIBT, is to promote certified tropical timber and show the environmental, social, economic and technical benefits of tropical timber consumption.
Françoise van de Ven, Secretary-General of the Union des Forestiers Industriels du Gabon et Aménagistes, said there were more than 3 million hectares of FSC-certified forests in Gabon. Despite the effort and expense companies had invested to certify their forests, however, this has not been reflected in increased remuneration for producers. Without adequate financing of long-term promotion, she said, consumers will continue to see only negative reports on tropical timber harvesting.
Qian Meng from the Chinese Academy of Forestry provided an overview of the Global Green Supply Chain Mechanism, an initiative of China’s private timber sector. The vision of the Mechanism’s founding members is to “establish a stable and orderly green supply chain for global forest products in order to promote the green and sustainable development of forest resources and products”.
Eric D. de Munck from the Netherlands Timber Trade Association said tropical wood importers in his country have long been accused of encouraging deforestation. Ultimately, however, the trade had taken responsibility for its imports, committing to no longer importing timber that could be illegal and progressively increasing the proportion of imports consisting of sustainably produced timber. The target for 2020 is 90%.
“Now we are considered a credible partner,” said Mr de Munck. He outlined wide-ranging successful efforts within the trade in the Netherlands to address public perceptions on tropical timber, including the publishing of life-cycle analyses that show sustainably produced tropical timber has vastly superior environmental performance compared with concrete, steel and composite plastics.
Ngo Sy Hoai, Vice Secretary General of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Products Association, said the Viet Nam timber sector exports forest products worth about USD 8.0 billion to 120 countries annually.
Despite its seeming success, however, Viet Nam’s timber sector faces major challenges. The absence of a national forest certification scheme, and a lack of cooperation amongst Vietnamese timber associations, was hindering development, said Mr Ngo.