Tuesday, 30 November 2021: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge shift in the world’s economic landscape, including the forest industry, but there is hope that the forest sector will “pick up” as countries increasingly adopt recovery measures, according to Chair of the International Tropical Timber Council, Kheirruddin Mohd Rani, who spoke yesterday at the opening of the Council’s 57th session.
The session is being convened virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Kheirruddin’s remarks were echoed by ITTO Officer-in-Charge Steven Johnson, who also spoke at the opening. Most economic sectors have been affected by the pandemic, he said, but countries with large export-oriented forest industries, including many ITTO producer countries, have been particularly hard-hit.
“Companies have faced difficulties in getting workers back to factories in the face of lockdowns,” said Dr Johnson. “Those that have succeeded have found it almost impossible to secure containers or shipping capacity to move their products to market. And for the lucky few who have managed to do that, freight rates have soared by up to ten times compared to pre-Covid rates. Higher shipping costs have increased landed product prices substantially in import markets, driving down demand in a vicious spiral.”
“As ITTO and others work towards achieving legal and sustainable supply chains, green supply chains and deforestation-free supply chains, the pandemic is a brutal reminder that we will achieve none of these if the supply chains themselves no longer exist,” said Dr Johnson.
Mr Kheirruddin said that emerging digital technologies, which have been fast-tracked during the pandemic, will help improve the forest industry’s efficiency, and he hoped for a more positive outlook for the sector in the future.
Also on the opening day of the session, Council members were unanimous in supporting a five-year extension of the International Tropical Timber Agreement, 2006 which is due to expire on 7 December 2021. A formal decision on the extension is expected to be made later in the week.
Three shortlisted candidates made 15-minute presentations for the position of the Organization’s Executive Director on the opening day. The candidates are Ms Sheam Satkuru (a national of Malaysia), Mr Francisco Souza (a national of Brazil), and Mr Yuri Thamrin (a national of Indonesia). The Council will consider the appointment during the session, which is due to conclude on Friday 3 December 2021.
The Committee on Forest Management convened on Monday to review project and policy work. Activities discussed include the promotion of smallholder forest landscape restoration in West-Africa; the development of training curricula for Central African countries on legal and sustainable supply chains; the dissemination of ITTO’s Guidelines for Forest Landscape Restoration in the Tropics; the joint ITTO–Convention on Biological Diversity Collaborative Initiative for Tropical Forest Biodiversity; and adapting ITTO’s criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management to the African context.
Three projects and one pre-project were declared completed by the committee, including one on the conservation and sustainable use of cempaka (Elmerrillia spp.) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Cempaka wood has long been used in the construction of traditional houses and demand is rising, bringing concerns for the long-term future of these species. The project worked with local communities to establish cempaka plantations with the aim of decreasing pressure on natural forests; contributing to the sustainable management and conservation of the species; ensuring future supplies of cempaka wood; and improving local livelihoods. The project provided training on cempaka seed collection, storage and germination and set up tree nurseries in three villages. A total of 18 hectares of cempaka plantations was established to demonstrate the potential of plantations for generating income and assisting village development.
The International Tropical Timber Council meets once a year to discuss a wide-ranging agenda aimed at promoting sustainable tropical forest management and the trade of sustainably produced tropical timber.
Daily coverage of the session by IISD reporting services is available at https://enb.iisd.org/ITTC57-International-Tropical-Timber-Council