The Jakarta Post
The Forestry Ministry claims that, compared to the country's mandatory legal timber certification (SVLK), local forestry-related firms have yet to benefit from certification issued by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The ministry's secretary general Hadi Daryanto said on Monday that the voluntary certification issued by the Germany-based non-profit organization had not affected the price of local companies' products and, thus, advised those companies it was not necessary to acquire the FSC certificate.
'Rather than struggling to get certification from the voluntary organization, firms are better off obtaining the SVLK because they are unable to export their goods without it,' he explained.
'The FSC does make the international market more accessible for local companies but the SVLK has started to establish its own [reputation], which will be further boosted once we sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement [VPA] with the European Union (EU).'
Hadi made his comments in response to the FSC's decision to effectively end all association with the pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) Group as of Aug. 7.
The termination, which includes all trademark license agreements with the group, followed the group's withdrawal from the FSC Chain of Custody certification.
Environmental NGOs ' namely Greenpeace International, Rainforest Action Network and WWF Indonesia ' have accused the group, through its withdrawal, of avoiding the FSC's enquiries into its alleged deforestation practices in Indonesia.
WWF data shows that the group and its suppliers in Riau had converted approximately 200,000 hectares (ha) of Sumatra's rainforests during 2007-2012. Much of the area was the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran elephants and tigers.
The group denied the allegation, saying that the withdrawal was based on their 'concerns about the FSC's Policy for Association.'
Following the termination, the company cut all affiliations with the FSC and decided to focus on the mandatory SVLK, which proves that a company's produce is legal, said APRIL Group spokesman Kusnan Rahmin.
Kusnan, in a press statement released on Sunday, said that the FSC policy, which bans companies from converting forests to industrial forests after 1994, was not in line with the current situation in Indonesia where firms had only just begun to develop industrial forests.
The SVLK was introduced in 2003 to fight rampant illegal logging and trade, which was running virtually unchecked nationwide.
The certification has been mandatory for industrial forest concessions and industries since 2010 and was expected to soothe entry into the European market as it requires importers and sellers to ensure the timber is legal, with exceptions for products having secured VPA licenses. The EU later confirms the legality of the timber.
Indonesia was one of the first countries to conclude negotiations with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2011. After several delays, the country and the EU are expected to sign the accord in early October at the latest.
According to the Trade Ministry, exports of timber and timber products ' mostly furniture ' increased by 114 percent to US$416 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to $193.9 million in the same period last year, thanks to the mandatory certification.
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