Russia may lose the EU timber market

22 September 2011 | News story

Russia may not be able to export timber to the EU anymore if effective measures to stop illegal logging are not taken in the country as soon as possible.

Ways of addressing this challenge were discussed, among other subjects, in Irkutsk at a session of the Forestry and Forest Use Working Group of the Forest Development Council of the Russian Federation organized in the framework of the VII Baikal International Economic Forum chaired by the Head of Rosleskhoz Victor Maslyakov. The participants, including WWF, discussed questions such as the regulation of forest use and reproduction in Russia; investment in the forest sector; and illegal timber harvesting and how to deal with this problem in the context of Regulation (EU) No 995/2010 adopted at the end of 2010. The ENPI FLEG Program focuses a lot of its efforts on these issues.

Illegal logging is seriously damaging the environment and causes national budgets to lose up to $10 billion annually, according to the World Bank’s estimations. Illegal logging and related trade are becoming a critical issue in Russia’s forest sector. During the event, Elena Kulikova, Forest Program Director of WWF Russia, presented the new EU timber legislation, the implications for Russia if it neglects this issue and what measures are to be taken.

The new Regulation which comes into force on March 3, 2013 will place obligations on timber importers to verify the legality of their products by either developing their own origin tracking systems or using existing practices such as, for example, FSC certification. The Regulation will protect the European Union from illegally harvested timber and, in the end, will ensure forest preservation.

In the current situation Russian timber suppliers will hardly be able to meet competition on the EU market without taking all necessary measures. The country’s forest legislation still lacks the notion of “illegal logging” and does not provide for documentation confirming the legality of timber products during their movement along the supply chain.

However, the government is gradually becoming aware of the need to pay more attention to the problem of illegal logging. At a conference in Cherepovets held in early September to discuss the socio-economic development strategy of Northwestern Russia up to 2020, President Vladimir Putin referred to the new EU Regulation as an example of state regulation of timber origin and announced the need to introduce similar measures in Russia.

The Agency Rosleskhoz has designed a concept of a state system of timber legality control and assurance. WWF supports this effort and hopes that in the process of developing this system the successful experience of corporate systems and voluntary forest certification summarized by WWF under the ENPI FLEG Program will be taken into account.

“The audience expressed much interest in the information about the European legislation because it is practically new for the Siberian forest sector,” said Elena Kulikova. “This once again confirms that this information should be disseminated, that initiatives and projects aimed at studying its content should be supported, and that its possible consequences, if it comes into force (especially for timber harvesting and trading organizations), and the mechanisms of its implementation should be analyzed. If Russia delays required actions and underestimates the new legislation it may lose the European timber market, which accounts for nearly one-fourth of its export.”