ITTO has published its tropical timber market report for the second half of September 2023.
One of the main topics was Gabon and the impact of changes in Gabon on the forestry sector. Marc Ona Essangui, founder of the NGO Brainforest, has been appointed third vice-president of the Gabonese Senate, an appointment viewed positively because of his commitment to transparency in contracts between the state and foreign companies.
Other topics include:
China's plywood exports decline in the first half of the year. In the first half of 2023, Chinese plywood exports fell by 9% in volume and 20% in value compared to the same period in 2022, according to Chinese customs. This decline is due to a decrease in the number of companies producing plywood in China, as well as reduced production capacity. The Philippines and the UK are the main markets for Chinese plywood, although exports to these two countries also fell in the first half of 2023. The USA is no longer the main export destination due to ongoing trade tensions, while exports to Middle Eastern and African countries have increased. Exports to the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Nigeria rose significantly. In the first half of 2023, Chinese plywood exports to Nigeria increased by 72% in volume and 47% in value.
First glimpses of the EUDR's potential effects on trade: comments from policymakers and analysts suggest that there will be winners and losers in terms of trade when the EUDR comes into force on January 1, 2025. Matthew Spencer, of IDH's Sustainable Trade Initiative, presented at a meeting of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP) in London, explaining that the EUDR could bring significant benefits, including better enforcement of national forest laws and the adoption of low-cost traceability solutions. However, these benefits will depend on how well producer countries feel respected and supported. Without proper dialogue and support, negative outcomes, such as the exclusion of smallholders from the market, could occur. The impact of the EUDR on trade will vary between countries and supply sectors, depending on the share of volume exported to the EU and the proportion of smallholders versus largeholders and plantations.
Sarawak company loses forest certification. Malaysian forestry company Samling has lost its forest certification for the Ravenscourt Forest Management Unit (FMU) in Sarawak. Certification body SIRIM withdrew the certificate due to non-compliance with the MTCS standard, and there are currently no logging activities underway in the Ravenscourt FMU.
The United Nations calls for a unified strategy to halt the worsening crisis in Myanmar. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for increased financial assistance to deal with an "enormous tragedy" in Myanmar. He noted that the situation had deteriorated since his meeting with ASEAN leaders in 2022, and urged the Myanmar government to release all political prisoners and restore democratic rule. Mr. Guterres called for an international response at a press conference before attending the ASEAN summit meetings in Indonesia.
Mato Grosso leads the national production of traceable indigenous wood. The forestry sector in the Amazonian state of Mato Grosso has become Brazil's leading producer of roundwood, with an annual output of over 4 million cubic meters. This production is mainly based on sustainable forest management, covering around 50 native tree species. The forestry sector is also a major contributor to state tax revenues, with R$ 66.2 million collected in 2022. It is also a major contributor to employment, with an 18% increase in the annual wage bill. Despite the crisis linked to COVID-19 in 2019 and 2020, the sector saw remarkable growth in 2022, contributing significantly to the local economy, with almost half of Mato Grosso's municipalities home to forestry industries. In addition, the sector emphasized the importance of the Document of Forest Origin (DOF+) system, a traceability permit guaranteeing standardized practices and high environmental responsibility for forest products from native species in Brazil.
Removing obstacles for foreign companies investing in Japan. The Japanese government plans to simplify foreign investment regulations to attract more foreign investors. They are also considering the creation of special economic zones where administrative procedures can be carried out in English. Meanwhile, a survey reveals that 86% of Japanese municipalities are facing a serious labor shortage, particularly in agriculture, due to an aging population and falling birth rates. To solve this problem, municipalities are looking to recruit more foreign workers. These measures are aimed at modernizing the Japanese economy and overcoming demographic challenges by attracting foreign investment and skilled labor.
US housing starts reach their lowest level in three years. US housing construction fell in August to its lowest level in over three years, mainly due to rising mortgage rates, which reduced demand for housing. However, an increase in building permits suggests that new construction is still underway, due to the shortage of homes on the market. The decline in housing starts, the biggest in a year, affected all construction sectors. In August, housing starts fell by 11.3%, reaching a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.283 million units, the lowest level since June 2020. In addition, July data were revised downwards, showing a rate of 1.447 million units, compared with the 1.452 million units previously reported.