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New Exchange On Illegal Timber

  • April 25th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

forestry-resize1.jpgThe environmental organisation Greenpeace has accused the European Union of allowing a big import trade to develop using illegally produced timber from Papua New Guinea and South-east Asia.

The European Commission says it has been acting on the problem.

Greenpeace has produced two research reports on the trade, concerning production in Africa, and other imports into the European market.

It says that timber is sent to China for processing, mostly by the Arser company there, then imported into Europe as plywood – and that uncertified product is involved. In the latest case it says three Dutch companies have been identified, purchasing the plywood through a Belgian firm, Altripan. This would feed into a booming trade, with the value of Chinese plywood sales in the Netherlands alone, jumping from EU 71 000 (A$116 800; 24.2.07), to EU 24-million (A$39.5-million), over five years.

The organisation has renewed earlier attacks on the Malaysian-based company Rimbunan Hijau, “RH”, saying it is responsible for at least half the logs that leave Papua New Guinea.
The Greenpeace European Advisor on Forests, Sebastien Risso, said in Brussels (24.4.07) almost 90% of saw-veneer grade logs from Papua New Guinea were going to China, which had become the world’s main, “wood processing factory”.

“China has replaced the United States as the main importer of timber on the planet. They import from Papua New Guinea, from Africa, from all over the place. China as a super power and as a growing market must assume its part of responsability and take action too,” he said.

He said that to try to control over-exploitation of forests, the European Union had been relying too much on negotiation of voluntary agreements with supplier countries including Indonesia and Malaysia; but that it needed to demand binding commitments from them – and bring in strong laws of its own:

“The consuming countries, and the European Union in particular must assume responsibility to take action to control what is sold in their market.”

The latest claims coincide with a meeting this week of Asian and European Environment Ministers, at Copenhagen (“ASEM” meeting; 23-26.4.07). They have been concentrating on climate change and questions of sustainable economic development. … but have declared that illegal logging and related trade needs to be “effectively addressed”.

The European Commission’s Environment spokesperson, Barbara Helfferich, said (24.4.07) it accepted there were problems, and was working on new solutions, although hindered by costs and difficulties of effective enforcement.

“There’s always the possibility of considering a ban on illegally logged timber but then there’s a question of enforcement,” she said.

“We have to have monitoring; we have to have inspectors in place; we have to have a number of things that need to be done.

“It would be politically quite easy to say ‘we’ll do that’, but if we want to have results then we need to clarify those things about implementation.”

On including China in the controls system, she said the European Commission was raising the timber issue with the Chinese delegation at bi-lateral consultations this week.


“Partners in Crime …”, Crime File-April 2007, Greenpeace, Brussels, 23.4.07

“Carving Up the Congo”, Greenpeace, Brussels, 2007

Calendar of Events: ASEM Meetings, European Council, Brussels. (23.4.07)

Picture: Stock.schng