Popular webinar unveils timber trade platforms

7 November 2020

Availability of trade data is vital for decision-making and for value timber businesses. Photo: Praethip/POND5

A webinar attended by about 100 trade stakeholders hosted by the Independent Market Monitor (IMM) last month presented the recently updated Data Dashboard and the new Sustainable Timber Information Exchange (STIX). The two platforms, created as part of work by ITTO and partners, enable users to tailor the presentation and analysis of timber-trade data to their requirements.

To be of value to timber businesses and other sector stakeholders, it’s vital that industry trade data are both current and accessible—that is, available in comprehensible, user-friendly and relevant formats. According to the IMM, the Data Dashboard and STIX, from which the IMM derives its core information, possess both these qualities.

The webinar, which IMM convened to demonstrate the capabilities of the dashboard and STIX, was fully subscribed, underlining the high level of interest in the platforms and their potential to assist the timber trade.

The IMM is an EU-funded project hosted by ITTO. Its central role is to monitor trade flows to the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), and worldwide of timber and wood products from countries engaged in voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme. The IMM’s trade correspondents in the leading EU timber-importing countries and the UK, plus VPA partners the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia and Viet Nam, also monitor market impacts and perceptions of FLEGT-licensed timber and the FLEGT initiative.

The IMM’s Data Dashboard (www.stats.flegtimm.eu) has been redeveloped to make it easier to navigate. New visualization tools have been added so that users can select and present information tailored to their needs.

Speaking during the webinar, IMM Trade Analyst Rupert Oliver said that the dashboard has various purposes, in addition to its value for the trade in following and analyzing market trends.

“[The dashboard] supports the work of IMM correspondents, who undertake trade and specific sector surveys which feed into its annual report and sectoral studies, and also informs policymakers involved in the development of FLEGT and market strategies for the initiative,” said Mr Oliver.

The dashboard, which is updated monthly, covers products classified under Harmonized System (HS) codes 44 (wood), 47 (pulp), 48 (paper) and 94 (furniture). It uses the highest HS resolution, including multiple items in each product category.

The dashboard has two components—a monitoring board and a market trends facility. The former gives a broad overview of the EU’s and UK’s tropical timber trade, setting trade flows from FLEGT-engaged countries in the context of their wider tropical imports from all sources of supply. The monitoring board also shows trends in the global tropical trade by import country, differentiating between importers that operate market legality controls, such as the EU with the EU Timber Regulation and the US with the Lacey Act, and non-regulated countries.

Mr Oliver said that the total global tropical timber trade (primary and secondary products) in the 12 months to July 2020 was worth USD 63.7 billion, with FLEGT-licensing and VPA partner countries accounting for 43% of this.

“With the latest data to August, the downturn in global tropical timber trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly visible, but we can also see the recent sharp pickup in trade, with increased imports in the US and China being key factors,” said Mr Oliver.

The market trends facility enables users to break down statistics under various parameters by selecting imports of specific products by a given EU country from a range of timber suppliers. The data can be downloaded in raw tabular format, or graphically—and users can also create their own “Sankey” diagrams to help visualize data breakdowns.

Launched this year, the STIX website (www.stix.global) was developed under the IMM project as a joint initiative between ITTO and the Global Timber Forum. It obtains its monthly-updated data from Eurostat–Comext, UK HMRC and commercial provider Business and Trade Statistics Ltd. STIX harmonizes value data into US dollars and euros and validates EU and UK quantity data using its own algorithm to remove errors and discrepancies.

STIX provides data under the same product codes as the dashboard but for 46 reporting countries who are able to provide data on a monthly basis with at most a 3-month lag. These include nearly all the world’s leading timber importers and exporters, between them accounting for at least 90% of global trade.

“It’s a powerful tool, providing cleaned and most current information, allowing users to access and download data in bulk, as a CSV file, and to select and aggregate statistics for commercially meaningful product groups,” said Mr Oliver.

During the webinar, IMM Lead Consultant Sarah Storck said that STIX and the dashboard are undergoing continual improvement.   

“Both facilities have feedback functions for users to share their thoughts on further developments,” she said. “The more input we get, the better and more useful our data and analysis will be.”

This is an edited and adapted version of an article that first appeared in the Timber Trades Journal Online (www.ttjonline.com). A recording of the webinar can be viewed at www.flegtimm.eu

Download webinar presentation.