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News release

ITTO mission 'recommended Indonesian log export ban'

Yokohama, Japan, 30 October 2001

Indonesia instituted an indefinite ban on the export of logs earlier this month in line with a recommendation made by an ITTO Mission in the country.

According to Dr. Untung Iskandar, spokesman for the Government of Indonesia, the ban took effect on 8 October after a meeting between Mission Leader Dr. B.C.Y. Freezailah and the Minister of Forestry, Dr. Prakoso, and will continue indefinitely, although it will be kept under review.

Dr. Iskandar was speaking on the second day of the 31st session of the International Tropical Timber Council(1) following presentation of the Mission's report by Dr. Freezailah and Mission rapporteur, Dr. Cherukat Chandrasekharan.

The Mission, which was authorized by the Council in November 2000, reported on a wide range of issues relevant to forest management in Indonesia. These included ways of minimizing illegal logging and proposals to restructure the forest industry.

It found that the most devastating form of illegal logging was that driven by those wanting to convert forest into mainly oil-palm plantations, causing the total annihilation of forest biodiversity. Although illegal, the Mission reported, there is often "an implied or misplaced acceptance of the legality of such conversions". Another form of illegal logging is direct timber theft for commercial purposes, which is often conducted "with the backing of rogue elements of the enforcement apparatus (army, navy, police and forestry officials)".

The Mission also found considerable problems in the country's forest industries. For example, there is a huge over-capacity for plywood processing: demand for logs to feed local mills is now more than double the annual allowable cut from the natural forests. Moreover, the conversion efficiency of most processing facilities is low compared to world standards, reducing the ability of such facilities to compete in the world market when "no longer protected from market forces". This situation has created a strong demand for illegal timber, which, unless corrected, will ultimately "lead to both destruction of the forests and collapse of the industries".

Some Council members queried the mission's proposal for a log export ban on the grounds that it would be counter-productive to the development of an efficient timber processing sector in the country. However, according to Dr. Freezailah, the current situation in Indonesia is "extraordinary" and required "extraordinary measures". The ban could be lifted later as conditions improve.

In addition to the log ban, the Mission made a wide range of other recommendations that aim to find short-, medium- and long-term solutions to forest sector problems in Indonesia.

For a copy of the Mission report and more information contact: Mr. Collins Ahadome, Information Officer, at itto@itto.or.jp

Footnote 1:
The International Tropical Timber Council is the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which comprises 57 member nations and is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable development of tropical forests. The Council meets every six months to discuss all aspects of the global tropical timber economy and to approve and fund a wide-ranging project program. The current Council session, which ends on 3 November, will consider a range of issues, including the funding of new projects and activities; to date, the Organization has funded over 500 projects and activities valued at more than US$200 million.