Potential Causes of the Contraction of the Demand for FSC certified Tropical Timber in the European Union
During the "Forum International sur le développement durable de la filière bois du Bassin du Congo" held in Brazzaville in October 2013, several concessionaires exporting both unprocessed and processed timber in Europe mentioned a drop in their certified tropical timber sales towards Europe in the last 12 months. Major players of the timber industry and timber syndicates operating in Central Africa stated that this contraction of certified tropical timber demand is a drawback effect of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) which entered into application on 3 March 2013. The hypothesis expressed publicly and recurrently reiterated is that EU timber importers and retailers would think that the enforcement of the EUTR would give most of their clients a sufficient guarantee about the presumable legality of the timber they import. If a potential drawback of the EUTR was confirmed, it would have negative consequences since it is generally acknowledged that the FSC certification plays a positive role in leading concessionaires to be in compliance with legal rules and foster some kind of self-regulation as the companies invested for obtaining a label which would be costly to lose during a negative audit. From a statistical stand point, the European Union (EU) consumed around a quarter of the volume of tropical timber emerging on the international market in 2007 while in 2013, this proportion was reduced to about 10%. Nevertheless, several factors could explain this contraction, in particular the economic crisis of 2008 with consumers less willing to pay a higher cost for tropical timber. Therefore, in order to determine whether the EUTR negatively impacted the demand for FSC certified tropical timber, the European Forest Institute FLEGT Facility asked CIRAD to lead a research study on the potential causes of the contraction of the demand for FSC certified tropical timber in the European Union. The study was conducted over a period of 6 months (April – October 2014). The present report introduces the main findings of the research study based on the interviews conducted. Inasmuch as the EUTR had been entered into application for a year when the research study started, further researches should be conducted in the coming months with the benefit of hindsight.