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News release

Keeping timber trade legal, Malaysia’s customs officers given a helping hand

13 May 2016


Logs being inspected in Sabah before transiting through Malaysia. Photo: The Sabah Foundation

More than 100 customs officers, forestry officials, timber trade enforcement and private sector representatives from across Malaysia met on 12 May 2016 in Putrajaya to develop timber trade guidelines to assist frontline customs authorities in their work at a national workshop organized by the Ministry of Plantations Industries and Commodities (MPIC), Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB), Royal Malaysian Customs and TRAFFIC, in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and ITTO, as part of ITTO’s Biennial Work Programme for the years 2015-2016.

Timber is the most valuable natural resource commodity traded globally with an annual turnover estimated in excess of US$300 billion. In 2015, Malaysia alone exported timber and timber products valued at US$5.46 billion, being Japan and USA the major export markets, valued at US$0.98 billion and US$0.74 billion respectively. However, illegal trade is a threat to sustainable forest management (SFM) with illegal logging and processing estimated to cost the world economy anything between US$30-100 billion or some 10-30% of the total global timber trade each year.

“Malaysia needs to be vigilant and diligent to ensure illegal logging and illegal timber trade does not threaten our nation and its natural resources,” said Mme Hajjah Norchahaya Hashim, Deputy Director General, Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB), at her opening speech.

Customs officers have a vital role in ensuring only legally-sourced timber is imported, exported or transits through Malaysia. However, there is a constant danger that illegally–sourced timber can enter the supply chain and be mixed with legally sourced material.

“Timber-specific guidelines and reference material for customs are important for the prevention of illegal timber trade,” said Mr Lee Sang-Hyup, Compliance and Facilitation Division, WCO in Brussels. “So we are very happy to be working with the government of Malaysia, ITTO and TRAFFIC to develop these guidelines for customs at the frontline.”

Mme Hajjah Norchahaya, MTIB said “Malaysia is pleased to be supporting this project and will help to pilot and test the guidelines using our collective experience and knowledge of timber trade.”

Steven Johnson, Officer-in-Charge of ITTO said “This initiative will allow customs officers in ITTO member countries to support national policies and efforts of agencies working in the forestry sector to contribute towards safeguarding the economic, social and environmental values of their forests.”

“Combating timber smuggling and illegal timber trade is a high priority in many countries,” said Chen Hin Keong, Timber Trade Programme Leader for TRAFFIC. “Customs is the main enforcement agency for combating such activities and TRAFFIC is pleased to be working with ITTO and WCO to help improve the capabilities of customs officials to detect and greatly deter such illegal activity. We stand by ready to provide further assistance wherever needed.”

The workshop is part of an activity under the ITTO’s Biennial Work Programme for the years 2015-2016 aiming at strengthening the capacity building of customs authorities to combat illegal logging and monitor timber trade with assistance of reference materials and tools. Funding for this activity has been provided thanks to voluntary contributions of the governments of Japan and the USA.  

For further information about ITTO, please visit www.itto.int or contact by e-mail at itto@itto.int  

For further information about TRAFFIC, please visit www.traffic.org or contact by e-mail at hk.chen@traffic.org