Indonesia eyes more timber importing countries

Indonesia and the European Union (EU) are expected to sign a timber agreement soon, and the country is now targeting other major countries for a similar deal that will help its certified timber enter their markets.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the country is more than ready to penetrate global markets that are becoming more and more strict on imposing legal log trading.

Indonesia adopted the timber legality certification scheme (SVLK) in 2003 and it has been mandatory for forest concessions and industries since 2010.

“The certification guarantees that our timber is legally harvested and that we are set to expand our global market,” Zulkifli said in his remarks to commence the 3rd High Level Market Dialogue on Wednesday.

SVLK was made mandatory to smoothen entry into the EU’s market, as the union requires importers and sellers to ensure the timber is legal, with exceptions for products having secured Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) licenses.

Indonesia was one of the first countries to conclude negotiations on a VPA with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2011 and after several delays, the country and the EU are expected to sign the accord on Sept. 30.

Now that the partnership between Indonesia and EU has progressed, the country is aiming to entice other countries to only purchase legal timber and later ink agreements to help Indonesian wood enter their markets.

The Ministry’s director for forestry produce processing and marketing, Dwi Sudharto, said the government had conducted talks with the US, Australia, South Korea and Japan, and had planned for more intense lobbying in October.

“We used to be criticized over illegal logging that was rampant in the past. We have struggled to combat illegal logging by introducing the SVLK,” Dwi said

The country’s forestry product exports reached US$3.48 billion in the first half of this year, a fourfold increase compared to $835.18 million during the same period last year.

China contributed most to the figure with $958.05 million or 27.5 percent, followed by Japan with 18.3 percent or $635.41 million, South Korea with 7.4 percent or $258.5 million.

The US is the fourth biggest importer with 6.7 percent or $233.01 million, followed by Taiwan with $128.18 and Australia with 3.7 percent or $128.04 million.

Targeted countries praise the certification scheme.

Kristen Bauer, Charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Jakarta, said when the US introduced the amended US Lacey Act in 2008, a provision that regulates the import and export of wood products to and from the US, American wood importers became more and more concerned about the sources of the timber and how it was harvested. 

“We applaud Indonesia’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and balancing between the conservation and economic development. We think that SVLK is a strong step to increase trade of legal timber, we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with Indonesia,” Bauer told the conference.

“I think we know how important Indonesian forests are, not only to Indonesia but also to the whole world. And that is why the US government is very happy to be a partner with the Indonesian government under a comprehensive partnership on issues related to forestry. The US imports more than $1 billion worth of Indonesian products.”

Meanwhile, the Minister at the Embassy of Japan, Shigeru Ushio, said Japan’s forestry product consumers have become more aware of the legality of the products

“Between Japan and Indonesia, we are trying to establish active full cooperation in combating illegal logging, for example, If we import plywood from Indonesia, we promote the legal verification system in Indonesia,” Ushio said. 

According to Japanese Embassy data, Indonesia contributes 4 percent to Japan’s timber market.

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