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Ghana first to offer ‘legal timber’

New laws in Europe, expected to be in place by the end of this year, mean that obliging timber importers are to ensure they buy legally produced wood.

Ghana will become the first exporting country to offer the guarantee of ‘legal timer’ in accordance with the new laws.

Since the EU adopted a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade action plan over seven years, negotiations have been going on between the EU and supplier countries.

However, last week, a meeting in London heard that a compromise text of the new legislation had been drafted and is expected to be in place by the end of this year.

The key element is an obligation for importers to show ‘due diligence’, proving they have taken reasonable care to not buy illegal timber.

If the timber is produced according to local laws and regulations, the EU will accept it as legal.


The EU is negotiating VPAs – voluntary partnership agreements – with its traditional suppliers.

Ghana was the first country to sign and ratify a VPA, with Cameroon and the Republic of Congo not far behind.

By the beginning of next year Ghana is expected to be selling licensed timber under Flegt. Any importer who buys it will automatically be considered to have fulfilled the ‘due diligence’ obligation.

Pilots for the new Flegt assurance scheme have already started in Ghana.

Kingsley Bekoe, a forestry specialist with Ghanaian NGO Civic Response, stressed how important the agreement is to the country: “Almost 60 percent of our timber exports are to the EU market. If you don't sign this agreement, I guess you will increasingly lose out.

“The market is starting to ask for legal timber. It's Europe and also the US but other markets are getting increasingly interested in this. So if you don't enter that agreement you will gradually be losing your market share.”

Negotiations are currently ongoing with Malawi, Indonesia, Liberia and the Central African Republic, while Gabon, the DR Congo and Vietnam have all asked to start the process.
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