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Speaking at the November 2020 Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) Conference, Iwan Kurniawan of The Borneo Initiative recommended greater collaboration and synergy between FSC and the EU FLEGT programme in Indonesia to streamline auditing and improve the economics of certified sustainable forest management. “The current average annual cost of auditing separately for FSC and SVLK is around $49,000,” said Mr Kurniawan. “Joint auditing could cut this by 31%. He added that a motion proposing joint FSC and SVLK audits would be discussed at the 2021 FSC general assembly. 

National and international efforts to ensure a legal and sustainable global timber trade, including the EU FLEGT initiative, should engage more with micro and small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs). That’s the conclusion of a briefing paper from the Global Timber Forum (GTF) – Enhancing the Development of a Responsible SME Forest Products Sector: Recommendations and Call to Action for National and International Policies and Programmes. 

A brand refresh is among the tasks of a new communications drive for Indonesia’s SVLK timber legality assurance system. The initiative, backed by the UK-funded Multi-stakeholder Forestry Programme (MFP4), aims to raise awareness of the value of SVLK certification at home and abroad. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of new supply chain sustainability auditing technologies and could trigger their accelerated uptake for commodities including timber. That’s the conclusion of journal articles from academics Cory Searcy of Ryerson University in Canada and Pavel Castka of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. They say the pandemic has prompted a global rethink of supply chain business models. That includes in respect of sustainability certification and verification auditing. And the latter, they told IMM, potentially includes auditing under FLEGT VPA countries’ timber legality assurance systems. 

Thai civil society groups have taken part in a data literacy training programme to strengthen their capacity to advocate for forest governance improvement, including through Thailand’s FLEGT VPA process. 

Vietnamese wood-based panel and joinery exporters are among  the beneficiaries of the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).  

Forests certified under Indonesia’s PHPL scheme are rated better on curbing deforestation than non-certified and legality verified areas, however its sustainability credentials are adversely impacted by competing land use rights. This is among key conclusions of a report by the Indonesian Forest Monitoring Network, JPIK. 

A £64 million support package from the UK for Colombia is aimed at improving forest governance and increasing uptake of sustainable forest management and agriculture. The grant finance has been awarded under the UK’s International Climate Finance programme (ICF). It comes a year after the UK and Colombia concluded a ‘Partnership for Sustainable Growth’, which focuses on ‘supporting the fight against deforestation and environmental crime and creation of sustainable economic livelihoods’.

The UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF) has launched a competition for designers, architects and craftspeople to create furniture, sculptures, interior design and other functional products using exclusively tropical timber from FLEGT VPA partner countries. The design contest, being run in association with the London Building Centre, is called Conversations about climate change and forms part of the TTF’s pan-European FLEGT communication drive. This aims to raise the market profile of the initiative and awareness of its wider impacts on the ground in supplier countries and is funded by the UK Department for International Development under its Forest Governance, Markets and Climate programme. 

The IMM market update for May 2020 analyses the latest data on EU27+UK imports of tropical wood (HS44) and wood furniture (HS94) from VPA Partner countries and competing non-VPA timber supplying countries. 

EU27+UK imports of tropical timber products from countries not engaged in the VPA process were making strong gains during 2018 and the first half of 2019, but in the case of Brazil and China, there was a significant slowdown in trade in the second half of 2019 which continued into the first quarter of 2020.

Of the three VPA negotiating countries in Africa, Gabon is the largest supplier to the EU27+UK. After declining in 2017, EU27+UK imports from Gabon in the next two years were very volatile on a monthly basis but overall, on an annual basis, were flat at around US$190 million.