Timber!!! What is FLEGT

Timber !!! What is FLEGT

FLEGT stands for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. The EU's FLEGT Action Plan was established in 2003. It aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.  The hoped for effect is that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold in the EU.

The EU Timber Regulation finally came into force on 3 March 2013. It prohibits operators in Europe from placing illegally harvested timber and products derived from illegal timber on the EU market. ‘Legal' timber is defined as timber produced in compliance with the laws of the country where it is harvested.

Countries in the EU are responsible for enforcing the EU Timber Regulation and for setting penalties for non-compliance.  Most countries have nominated a competent authority which is responsible for implementing the EU Timber Regulation. These competent authorities are listed below. Where no information is given, processes to designate a competent authority are ongoing. List of competent authorities.

The EU has Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with a number of countries around the world to en­sure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources. The agreements also help timber-exporting countries stop illegal logging by improving regulation and governance of the forest sector.

Six countries have signed a VPA with the EU and are currently developing the systems needed to control, verify and license legal timber.  Nine more countries are in negotiations with the EU. A number of countries have expressed interest in receiving more information about the VPA process.  VPA countries are:

In place:

Cameron: FLEGT licensing started December 2010 – Cameroon has around 20 million hectares of forest, which is almost half of its national territory. Most of this forest area has been permanently allocated to long-term forest production or conservation, with a smaller area intended for community forestry. The forest sector contributes around 6% of GDP.

Central African Republic: FLEGT licensing started July 2012 - The Central African Republic has around 5.4 million hectares of forest, which is less than 10% of its total land area. However, the forest sector contributes around 4% of GDP and 40% of the country's export earnings.

Ghana: FLEGT licensing started: December 2009 - Ghana has around 2.6 million hectares of forest reserves dedicated to timber production, and an additional 2 million hectares of crop land that also produce timber. The country also has 500 000 hectares of unreserved forests. The forest sector is the fourth largest contributor to Ghana's GDP. 

Indonesia: FLEGT licensing started: 15 November 2016 - Indonesia's forests cover around 60% of its land area. Indonesia is one of the world's largest exporters of tropical timber. It exports a wide variety of timber products, ranging from plywood, pulp and paper to furniture and handicrafts. It was one of the first countries to start negotiating a VPA with the EU.

Liberia: FLEGT licensing started: 1 December 2013 - Liberia contains more than half the entire rainforest remaining in West Africa. About 45% of the country, 4.3 million hectares, is covered by forest

Republic of Congo:  FLEGT licensing started: March 2013 - Forests cover around 65% of the area of the Republic of the Congo, and forest is the country's second most valuable natural resource after oil. Around 3.5 million hectares of forest has been set aside as protected zones, and another 19 million hectares is intended for timber production.



Cote Ivorie: Negotiations started February 2013 - Forests cover 22% of the land area of Côte d'Ivoire, but only 2% of the country is covered by primary forest. Most of the country's forests – once the largest in western Africa – have been heavily logged. The forest cover has shrunk from 12 million hectares in 1960 to 2.5 million hectares today.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Negotiations started October 2010 - The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the largest forest area in the Congo Basin, with around 100 million hectares of forests. The DRC exports around 500 000 cubic metres of timber per year, 80–90% of which is sent to Europe.

Gabon: Negotiations started September 2010 - Forests cover around 85% of the land area of Gabon, or some 22 million hectares. Gabon shares borders with Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo, both of which are implementing a VPA.

Guyana: Negotiations started December 2012 - Guyana has approximately 18.3 million hectares of tropical rainforest, covering 87% of its land area.

Honduras: Negotiations started January 2013 - Honduras has around 6.6 million hectares of forest, covering about 60% of its land area. It was the first country in the Americas to enter into VPA negotiations with the EU.

Laos: Negotiations started April 2012 - The forests of the Lao People´s Democratic Republic cover about 40% of the country. The Government of Laos plans to improve the forestry sector by reducing export of raw logs and primary wood products from natural forests and increasing intensively managed plantations of industrial tree crops

Malaysia: Negotiations started 2007 - Almost 60% of Malaysia's land area is forested. Timber is an important export product and a significant contributor to the country's economy. The EU is one of Malaysia's top three export markets for timber products

Thailand: Negotiations started September 2013 - About 37% of Thailand's land area is forested, and most of the country's remaining natural forests are now protected

Vietnam: Negotiations started November 2010 - About 45% of Vietnam's land area is forested, and the country has a key role in processing in the timber sector in Southeast Asia. Vietnam imports timber from some 80 countries – in recent years main suppliers have included Cambodia, Laos, China, USA and Malaysia.

In July 2014 the European Commission started an evaluation of the first 11 years of implementation (2003-2014) of the EU FLEGT Action Plan. The evaluation report comprises two volumes: Volume 1 is the main report, Volume 2 provides supporting documentation. Within the 10 key messages given as a conclusion to the report was that the EU FLEGT Action Plan continues to be fully relevant but needs to address new challenges, in particular with regard to deforestation and forest conversion.  Though it is resulting in improved forest governance in all targeted countries, both VPA and non-VPA fundamental governance challenges persist that need more effective tackling as they are slowing down progress


EU Timber Regulations Website

Article written by Sandra Herd - Strong & Herd LLP

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