The Jakarta Post
There will likely be a significant jump in timber exports to the European Union following the ratification of an agreement signed to curb illegal timber trade.
Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said Friday that Indonesia expected an increase in timber and timber product shipments to the EU by 5-7 percent during the initial phase, which could begin as soon as this year.
The shipment may increase gradually at a double-digit rate in the upcoming years.
The modest growth of exports throughout this year would still be affected by ongoing economic recovery in the 28-member bloc.
'With the ratification, our timber legality system receives recognition from the EU and our timber gains a competitive edge,' Bayu told reporters at his office.
On Thursday, the European parliament ratified the EU-Indonesia Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade ( FLEGT ) voluntary partnership agreement signed in September last year.
The agreement acknowledged that whole timber and timber products certified under the domestic timber legality verification system ( SVLK ) were legally harvested and complied with the EU's timber regulation, which became effective March last year.
Indonesia, one of the world's biggest timber producers, is the first country to have such an agreement ratified by the European Parliament.
With the acknowledgement, Indonesian timber will get a license that exempts Indonesian forest products from mandatory due diligence, which takes more time and money.
This will at the end cut the verification time significantly, allowing the quick release of Indonesian timber arriving at European import gateways.
Indonesia's exports of timber and timber products settled at around US$10 billion last year.
The EU is the third-biggest export destination for Indonesia's timber shipments with a value of approximately $1 billion, after Japan and China.
In response to the EU's ratification, Indonesian Sawmill and Wood Working Association ( ISWA ) Soewarni said that the agreement would result in better market access and new opportunities for Indonesian wood exporters in the European market.
'Furthermore, we hope that the EU's move will start a domino effect and other countries will acknowledge SVLK, thereby, benefitting our timber producers further,' she told The Jakarta Post.
Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi welcomed the EU's move, saying that the agreement would be a key milestone for forest governance in Indonesia, which in the past had been accused of hosting the world's biggest timber smuggling racket.
However, he warned that the ultimate test would be whether the deal was actually implemented on the ground to help halt deforestation.
'The eradication of illegal logging and illegal land clearance for timber, oil palm and pulp and paper is urgent and must go hand-in-hand with further policy reforms. The loose application of existing rules must be resisted,' he said in a statement.