Sunday, 25 January 2009

EU Plan to Halt Illegal Logging Won't Fell Industry Here: Ministry

EU Plan to Halt Illegal Logging Won't Fell Industry Here: Ministry

Jakarta Globe 21st January

A senior Forestry Ministry official saidthat he believes planned European Union regulations on the sale of illegally felled rainforest timber would not damage the Indonesian pulp and paper industry as it already possesses a good certification system.

Masyhud, the director of the ministry's Information Center, was responding to news on Tuesday from Brussels that EU farm ministers had broadly welcomed plans to crack down on the lucrative illegal timber trade by requiring exporters to produce licences proving that their timber does not come from endangered rainforests.

He said that Indonesia had introduced a barcode-based certification system for timber origin in 2007. "All wood-based products that use Indonesian timber must have a barcode certificate before they're exported," he told the Jakarta Globe by telephone on Tuesday.

Masyhud said the barcode-certificate system allowed the place of origin of timber to be traced, and for purchasers to identify whether it was taken from forests in Java, Sumatra or elsewhere.

Without a barcode certificate on a wood-based product, Masyhud said, the purchaser could take it for granted that the timber was sourced illegally.

"So, we welcome any plan by the EU to make timber certification mandatory given that we already have such a system in place," he said.

Masyhud acknowledged that the system did sometimes create bureaucratic difficulties for Indonesian exporters. Local governments have in the past seized certified timber, even though it was accompanied by all the necessary documents. He said that the ministry was still trying to work out how to simplify the licensing process without further endangering forests.

The proposed EU regulations, drafted by the Commission, the EU's executive arm, would oblige importers to check the legality of timber products to prevent illegally felled timber entering member states.

The rules also apply to EU produced timber.

EU countries are an important market for both legally and illegally harvested timber — collectively they constitute the biggest importer of plywood and sawn timber from Africa, the second biggest importer of such timber from Asia and a key market for Russian timber. Much of the timber is believed to be suspect, with environmental groups saying that Europe imports 1.2 billion euros
($1.58 billion) worth of illegally felled timber every year.

Last year, the WWF estimated that nearly a fifth of the timber imported by the EU was felled illegally or came from suspect sources, mostly in Russia, Indonesia and China.

Many ministers taking the floor at the monthly meeting welcomed the EU plan for action against illegal logging, but voiced concerns over cost, red tape and enforceability.

Several countries expressed concerns about the extra costs the scheme would impose on their timber industries and importers.

JG, Reuters