Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Timber Independent Market Monitoring

17 February 2014

Registering information on harvesting operations in Western, Ghana. Photo: Samuel Tseganu

ITTO signed a contribution agreement with the European Union (EU) in December 2013 to implement a large project entitled “Independent market monitoring: analysis of the reception of FLEGT licensed timber on the EU market as framed by VPAs[1]”, or “IMM”.
The IMM initiative was framed in response to requests from VPA partner countries and commitments made in negotiating the agreements.
The EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade was launched in 2003.  It blends measures in producer and consumer countries to facilitate trade in legal timber, and eliminate illegal timber from trade with the EU. At the core of the Action Plan, the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) bilateral trade agreements which aim to guarantee, through a system of FLEGT licenses,  that the wood exported to the EU is from legal sources and to support partner countries in improving their own regulation and governance of the sector.
During VPA negotiations, partners requested the establishment of independent scrutiny to assess concrete changes in the EU timber market and to see whether the market recognizes and appreciates FLEGT licensed timber. FLEGT partner countries want to know whether their efforts to fight illegal logging, improve law enforcement and provide evidence of legality have a positive impact on the acceptance of their timber in the EU market and whether they are rewarded in terms of market share and access.
An integral part of the FLEGT Action Plan and completing the VPAs, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) which entered into application on 3 March 2013 prohibits placing of illegally harvested timber on the EU market and requires EU operators to minimize the risk of placing illegally harvested timber on the market through a set of measures called “due diligence system”. The EUTR indicates clearly that timber products covered by a valid FLEGT license are automatically considered to have been legally harvested, thereby creating a further incentive for FLEGT-certified timber. Furthermore EU member states have developed their own policies to promote legal timber, including public procurement policies; some of them favouring FLEGT licensed timber as well as timber verified through private certification schemes.
The first shipments of FLEGT licensed timber are expected in the EU market in 2014/2015. There are strong expectations that FLEGT timber will be positively received and will increase the market share of VPA countries in the EU timber market. Analysis of the reception of FLEGT licensed timber by the EU market will be important for monitoring the impacts of FLEGT VPAs and for guiding the implementation of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. Demonstrating changes in trade of legally verified timber will maintain momentum in VPA countries which will then accelerate implementation of forest sector reforms to meet market expectations.
So far, six countries have concluded a FLEGT VPA with the EU: Ghana, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Central African Republic and Indonesia. Nine other VPAs are being negotiated with Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guyana and Honduras. The VPA establishes a system of annual reporting which should include information on trade flows and on the measures taken by the EU to fight illegal logging and to promote FLEGT licensed timber. The IMM project to be implemented by ITTO will provide information that will be incorporated in the annual reports, addressing questions on EU market acceptance and contributing to the monitoring of the EU FLEGT Action Plan’s impacts.
The IMM will be implemented through consultations with the EU Member States, VPA partner countries and relevant stakeholders in the timber sector. It is expected that a network of correspondents will be established under the oversight of ITTO to develop a database of timber trade flows into the EU market from VPA and potential VPA countries, taking into account information already available from ITTO and partners. A baseline will be established to help identify timber market trends over the last 10 years and factors impacting them.
The IMM will also contribute to strengthening ITTO’s capacity to assess the international trade of legally verified timber and to improving the understanding of the impact of improved law enforcement and legality verification on tropical timber markets. The total cost of the IMM project, which will be implemented over a period of 60 months, is EUR 4,375,000.
For further information, please contact ITTO at

[1] Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are bilateral trade agreements between the EU and tropical wood exporting countries, which aim to improve forest governance and guarantee that the wood imported into the EU is from legal sources.