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News release

Trade calls for timber campaign

Yaoundé, Cameroon, 31 May 2001

A major campaign to promote tropical timber in consumer markets is urgently needed if the tropical timber trade is to retain and increase its market share.

This was one of the points made at the Annual Market Discussion organised by the Trade Advisory Group to the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC), which is meeting here this week. Some 300 delegates from the 56 ITTO member nations have gathered to discuss a wide range of issues related to the sustainable management and conservation of tropical forests and the promotion of a sustainable tropical timber industry and trade.

The Market Discussion is designed to inform delegates of the issues being faced by the tropical timber trade. Speakers from various trade and industry bodies, and experts on different aspects of trade, industry and forest management, reported on recent developments of relevance to the trade.

Most agreed that the tropical timber trade is in trouble. The Asian financial crisis in 1997 did not cause the downturn in the market but it certainly accelerated a trend which has been worsened by the current global economic slowdown. Statistics in ITTO's Annual Review and Assessment of the World Timber Situation show that demand for tropical timbers in the 'old economy' consumer countries has been weakening for years; a big chunk of market share has been lost to non-tropical timbers and non-timber substitutes. Only China, a 'new economy' consumer, has been bucking the trend.

However, experts say that there is some good news: timber is scoring some successes against its competitors in life cycle analysis, which compares the environmental impact of products over their life, from production to disposal. Such analyses are showing that timber is more environmentally friendly than competing PVC (a kind of plastic), aluminium and steel products. According to trade representatives, market conditions are now at a point when a serious generic timber promotional effort could pay dividends.

The Council is considering a major tropical timber promotional campaign to be undertaken in collaboration with the trade.

For more information contact: Dr Mike Adams, ITTO Secretariat, itto-mis@itto.or.jp