The tropical timber-focused EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Independent Market Monitor (IMM) has wound down after nine years’ operation. The IMM launched 2014 with the objective of tracking timber trade flows from supplier countries in FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements with the EU, setting these in the context of the wider tropical timber market. Its role also included gauging market views and influence of the FLEGT Action Plan and FLEGT licensing. It was managed under contract to the EU by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), with this coming to an end as planned on December 31 2022.
During its operation, the IMM has undertaken quarterly analysis of international trade data from COMEXT, COMTRADE and other sources. This data has been ‘cleaned’ using a specially developed algorithm and presented on the IMM online Data Dashboard and the more detailed STIX (Sustainable Timber Information Exchange) website. From 2017 to 2022 IMM correspondents have undertaken around 800 interviews with EU timber importers and traders, with the results published in annual reports and newsletters.
Key conclusions from IMM research included:
- The green lane for FLEGT-licensed timber has made importing from Indonesia easier for EU operators;
- EU operators value the ‘zero risk’ status of FLEGT- licensed timber and give preference where other commercial product criteria are equal;
- While IMM has not identified any significant FLEGT Licensing related growth in timber and timber product trade between Indonesia and the EU, FLEGT Licensing may have contributed to stabilising Indonesia’s market share in a difficult and competitive environment;
- Indonesian stakeholders consider FLEGT to improve forest management and governance;
- Indonesian stakeholders see an increasing role for SVLK/FLEGT Licensing at a global level due to the growing number of regulated markets;
- Inconsistent messaging and lack of endorsement and promotion may have created confusion about the value of FLEGT Licensing and affected market development;
- Inconsistencies in EUTR enforcement may have created loopholes that may have weakened the green lane advantage;
- FLEGT Licensing so far being limited to just one country and a limited number of products has affected market traction and awareness of FLEGT-licensed goods at various levels (e.g. uptake in procurement policies, green building codes etc.);
- The EUDR is raising question marks over the value of FLEGT licensing.
Stakeholders at consultations in VPA countries and the EU hosted by the IMM through 2022 said its work had been of significant value to them. It had increased understanding of market impacts and perceptions of FLEGT licensing and VPAs and helped inform policy and business decision-making.
Participants from business, government and private sector at the consultations in Indonesia, Ghana, France, and Viet Nam also said, based on their experience of the IMM’s work, they’d like to see some form of EU FLEGT independent market and trade monitoring continuing into 2023 and beyond. The implementation of the EU’s Regulation on Deforestation-Free Commodities and spread of timber legality import regulations in other consumer markets globally made it potentially more relevant still.
The IMM website (www.flegtimm.eu) is no longer maintained. However, IMM’s collected outputs will remain available online. In the near future the STIX database will be maintained by the ITTO at www.itto.int.