Wood and derived products

The global timber market

Worldwide, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) reports that nearly 1.15 billion hectares of forest are managed primarily for the production of timber and non-timber forest products.

Crédits : ©Sarah Brown - Licence Unsplash Enlarge image la figure 114

Image representing a forest

749 million hectares are used for multiple purposes, often including production. The area of forest used primarily for production has remained relatively stable worldwide, but the area of forest used for multiple purposes (production, conservation, protection...) has decreased by around 71 million hectares since 1990. Global wood harvesting was estimated at 3.97 billion m3 in 2019, about half of which was industrial roundwood. The other half was firewood.

Numerous global data on wood production and consumption are made available by the FAO.

The challenges of the timber industry in France

French imports of wood and derived products

France imports an average of 16,762,000 m3 of roundwood equivalent for the wood industry over the period 2012-2021, and exports 12,177,000 m3.

Wood is mainly imported in the form of sawn timber (20%), fiberboard (9%), particleboard (8%) and firewood (8%). The remainder (55%) takes the form of furniture, boxes, coal, rough wood, etc.

The vast majority of wood and processed wood is imported from Europe, but 17% of the area required for our wood imports comes from countries at risk of deforestation, mainly Russia and China. In addition, over 5% of French imports come from tropical countries at high risk of deforestation. Most European tropical wood imports come from Africa (56%), followed by Asia (25%) and Latin America (19%).

France accounted for 22.7% of the European Union’s tropical wood consumption in 2016, ranking first (IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, 2018).

Although roundwood equivalent imports are tending to rise (from 15,373,000 m3 in 2012 to 21,070,000 m3 in 2021), the DGPE (Direction Générale de la Performance Economique et Environnementale des Entreprises) notes that French imports of tropical roundwood fell sharply in 2019 (€17.6 million, -9%). The downward trend observed for many years can be explained by a number of factors: strategy of local valorization of forest resources by South American, Asian or African countries, pressure exerted by NGOs against abusive use of tropical wood, competition from substitute materials and European temperate woods, implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). Tropical wood, particularly from Africa and South-East Asia, is now massively exported to China.

French production of wood and derived products

France also produces timber on its own territory. In 2021, the total volume of timber harvested and marketed amounted to 39.9 million round m3. The commercialized industrial timber harvest totaled 10.1 million m3 , of which 9.5 million m3 were pulpwood. The energy wood harvest was 8.9 million m3 (up).

French paper imports

Products for paper manufacture are mainly imported in the form of chemical wood pulp (41%), kaolin-coated paper and board (13%), uncoated paper and board (10%). The remainder (36%) takes the form of paper, cardboard, towels, newsprint, etc.
France imports an average of 15,714,000 m3 of roundwood equivalent for the paper industry over the period 2012-2021, and exports 9,194,000 m3.

A sustainable wood industry

European regulatory instruments

The FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) action plan establishes Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber-exporting countries. This scheme enables presumed legal timber to be exported to the EU market under a FLEGT license. The importer has no further documentation to justify.

The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) has been in force since 2013, in the absence of a FLEGT scheme, i.e. in all other timber-producing and exporting countries. It obliges the importer to "exercise due diligence" and ensure the legality of the timber (logging, felling, transport documents, etc.). It particularly targets timber imports from high-risk countries with vulnerable forests, where certificates are not deemed sufficient. The aim is to deny illegal timber and timber products access to European territory.

While the EUTR only concerned timber, the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) adopted in June 2023 covers beef, palm oil, soy, coffee, cocoa, rubber and timber, as well as some of their derivatives. This new regulation will repeal the EUTR on the date of its application. However, products covered by the EUTR (timber and derived products) which were harvested before the EUDR came into force, but which will be marketed after its entry into force, will comply with the EUDR for 3 years.

Private certifications

When it comes to forest management, there are two private certification standards whose aim is to preserve forests and perpetuate forest resources by promoting a balance between the environmental, societal and economic dimensions of forests:

FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) certification: created in 1993 (official creation date: 1994) in response to the inadequacy of international action to protect forests, and to significant deforestation, FSC is an international organization aiming to "promote responsible management of the world’s forests", i.e. management that is ecologically appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable, meeting the needs of present and future generations. FSC is defined by a governance process with three chambers within which members are divided: environmental, social and economic. FSC International develops two types of certification: forest management certification and supply chain certification. The latter is designed to control wood from certified forests throughout the supply chain, from upstream (the certified forest management unit) through all stages of production and processing, and possibly recycling of wood/paper waste, to the end customer.

FSC has seen a steady increase in certified areas in France over the last few years, and the number of new certificates has also risen.

In 2024, FSC issued 16 forest management certificates in France. This means that more than 160,000 hectares of forest are certified in France. 905 "Chain of Custody" certificates have been issued to date by FSC, meaning that 1992 sites are certified in France in 2024.

PEFC certification (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification): created in 1999 in the wake of the major environmental conferences, PEFC is an international organization present in 55 countries around the world, aiming to certify sustainable forest management and rally around a multifunctional and balanced vision of the forest. PEFC is defined by a governance process involving all stakeholders concerned by sustainable forest management: producers, processors and users. In France, nearly 80,000 forest owners and over 3,100 companies are involved in PEFC certification.

Other standards exist for the verification of legality. In 2011, Proforest listed four standards applying to several countries :

  • SW-VLC (Smartwood Verification of Legal Compliance);
  • BV-OLB (Bureau Veritas - origin and legality of wood);
  • SGS-TLTV (SGS-Timber Legality and Tracability Verification);
  • SCS-LHV (SCS-Legal Harvest Verification).

It is necessary to add since the standard FLV (Forest Legality Verification) developed by Nepcon then the Rainforest Alliance (Rainforest Alliance 2017).
These standards mostly partially cover issues of labor rights, land status and community rights.

Responsible forest management certificates are effective when wood comes from low-risk regions, particularly to certify sustainable forest management. However, they are not enough to guarantee the legality of imported wood on the European market.

To find out more (report in French):

Timber certification and the SNDI: compatibilities and possible improvements (study report by the AFD Forest Scientific and Technical Committee, April 2022)

Projects for a sustainable wood industry

Today, several projects illustrate the principles promoted by the SNDI in favor of a sustainable wood industry:

  • The P3FAC project, initiated in 2016 by the FFEM on the sustainable management of forests in Central Africa, implemented by the International Technical Association for Tropical Wood.
  • The PROFEAAC project, initiated in 2017 by the FFEM: PROMOTING and Formalizing Artisanal Logging in Central Africa through a multi-scalar approach: territorial management of the resource, governance of the sector, promotion of requests for legal sawn timber, implementation implemented by CIFOR.
  • The “Fair and Precious” initiative led by the International Technical Association of Tropical Timber and PEFC, in which FSC collaborates.

392 700
direct jobs in the forestry and wood industry in France

16 762 000
of roundwood equivalent imported by France for industry

tonnes of CO2 captured each year in France by forests

Sources :

  • FAO
  • WWF
  • Office National des Forêts (ONF)
  • Comité Scientifique et Technique Forêt (CSTF)
  • SDES : Importations françaises de matières premières visées par la Stratégie nationale de lutte contre la déforestation importée entre 2012-2021 - Vers une empreinte terre de la France (Décembre 2023)
  • FIBOIS France
  • FSC
  • Agreste