As part of the Open Timber Portal newsletter, Benoit JOBBE-DUVAL talks about the repercussions of the COVID crisis 19
We relay to you below the original text published in the Open Timber Portal (OTP) newsletter of June 26, 2020.
Companies push ahead, despite the crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has had a severe impact on the Congo Basin’s six certified logging companies, who together manage 5.2 million hectares of forest. A number of these companies run local health centers and contribute to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Our team spoke with Benoît Jobbé-Duval of the Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux (ATIBT) to better understand the current situation.
Has the forestry sector slowed down since the crisis?
The timber sector continues its activities in the Congo Basin, as best it can. Although it faces various difficulties with logistics, maintenance, and obtaining spare parts, for example, companies continue their work. At the same time, they are seeing cancellations or reductions in orders. It is difficult to know today what the exact long-term impact will be because we have to see how quickly the markets can resume their activity.
In your opinion, has there been a drop in the enforcement of forest laws in the Congo Basin since the start of the crisis?
I cannot tell you today if there is an impact on forest law enforcement. This should not be the case in principle. Right now, what I do know is that in Cameroon, for example, a number of illegal or almost illegal activities, such as the sale of standing volume, mobile sawmills, etc. have stopped, but it’s only temporary unfortunately. We are dealing here with essentially opportunistic and ephemeral actors, who will resume their illegal activities as soon as the crisis is over. On the other hand, companies that have strong principles and clear procedures for good practice are « holding on » and dealing with the epidemic.
Do you predict that forest legality in the Congo Basin will be better or worse than before the crisis?
My concern stems from the fact that the markets are going to be difficult, and that legal and certified tropical timber may suffer from a decline in value on the market. The crisis may make markets even more competitive, and buyers may increasingly turn to cheaper softwood species, as was the case after the 2008 financial crisis.