Wood and derived products

The global timber market

At the global level, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) indicates that nearly 1.15 billion hectares of forest are managed mainly for the production of wood and non-wood forest products. In addition, 749 million hectares are designated for multiple use , which often includes production. The area of ​​forest primarily designated for production has remained relatively stable in the world, but the area of ​​forest with multiple uses (production, conservation, protection, etc.) has decreased by around 71 million hectares since 1990. Global removals of wood were estimated at 3.97 billion m 3 in 2019, about half of which was industrial roundwood. The other half was firewood. The five countries that harvested the most timber in 2018 were the United States (11%), India (9%), China (9%), Brazil (7%) and Russia (6%).

Crédits : ©Sarah Brown - Licence Unsplash Agrandir la figure 114

Image representing a forest

75% of wood products linked to deforestation remain in their country of origin. Deforestation associated with imports of wood products from the European Union over the period 1990-2008 amounted to 0.2 million hectares , mainly from Brazil (nearly 50%) and Indonesia, followed by a few sub-Saharan countries such as Cameroon and Madagascar.

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

French imports

Timber imports

In 2019, according to the FAO, France imported 1.44 million m 3 of roundwood. Imports are made mainly in the form of industrial roundwood (1.26 million m 3 ), the remaining 178,000 m 3 being imported in the form of firewood.

According to the DGPE (Direction Générale de la Performance Economique et Environnementale des Entreprises) during the Forest and Forest Industry Committee (2020), French imports of tropical roundwood fell sharply in 2019 (€17.6 million, -9%). The downward trend observed for many years can be explained by various factors: strategy of local development of forest resources by the countries of South America, Asia or Africa, pressure exerted by NGOs against excessive use of wood tropical, competition from substitute materials and European temperate woods, implementation of the European Union Wood Regulation. Tropical timber, particularly from Africa and Southeast Asia, is now massively exported to China.

Imports of wood products

France imports a wide variety of wood products, with the largest volumes being imported in the form of sawn timber (2.8 million m 3 in 2019), wood fiber panels (1.2 million m 3 in 2019). ..

A WWF study points out that more than 20% of wood is imported in various forms of furniture (finished or unassembled products). The vast majority of imported wood and processed wood is of European origin, but 17% of the surfaces needed for our wood imports come from countries at risk, mainly Russia and China. In addition, more than 5% of French imports come from tropical countries not analyzed in detail in this study, but which have a high risk of deforestation.

France represented 22.7% of the consumption of tropical timber in the European Union in 2016, thus ranking first (IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, 2018).

National production of wood and derived products

France also produces wood on its territory. In 2019, the total volume of marketed timber harvest amounted to 38.1 million m 3 of roundwood over bark. The harvest of marketed industrial timber is 10.5 million m 3 (increasing). The wood-energy harvest is 8 million m 3 (down). Pulpwood represents 12.03 million gross tons, of which 62% comes from the forest (the rest being sawmill by-products or recycled wood). The paper pulp industry used 6.54 million tonnes of wood in 2019, and the panel industry 5.49 million tonnes (increasing). These figures come from the Committee for Forests and the Forest Industry.

Standards for the timber industry

There are a variety of instruments that make it possible to ensure the legality and sustainability of imported wood in France, and more widely in Europe. These instruments complement each other and constitute as many elements on which to work to reduce France’s footprint abroad in terms of wood imports.

European regulatory instruments

The FLEGT or Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade action plan establishes Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber exporting countries. It concerns only Indonesia to date, but fourteen other countries located in the intertropical zone are involved in the negotiations and the application of this action plan. This regime allows presumed legal timber to be exported to the EU market via a FLEGT licence. The importer therefore has no other document to justify.

The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) has applied since 2013, in the absence of a FLEGT regime, therefore in all other timber producing and exporting countries. It obliges the importer to "do due diligence" and ensure the legality of the timber (logging, felling, transport documents, etc.). It particularly targets wood imports from countries at risk with vulnerable forests, where certificates are not considered sufficient. The objective is to prohibit illegal timber and products derived from it from entering European territory.

Private certifications

In terms of forest management, there are two main private certification brands, the purpose of which is to preserve forests and sustain 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) following the observation of the insufficiency of international actions to protect forests, and significant deforestation, FSC is an international organization present in 89 countries around the world, covering all types of forests in the world: temperate and boreal forests included. FSC is defined by a governance process with three chambers: environmental, social and economic. FSC observes a continuous increase in certified surfaces in France in recent years and the appearance of new certificates.
  • PEFC certification (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) : created in 1999 in the wake of major environmental conferences, PEFC is an international organization present in 53 countries around the world. PEFC is defined by a governance process between all stakeholders involved in sustainable forest management: producers, processors and users. In France, more than 70,000 forest owners and 3,100 companies are involved in PEFC certification.
    Chain of custody certificates then make it possible to follow the FSC or PEFC certified materials from the forest to the consumer, by controlling each link of the successive stages of treatment, transformation, manufacture and distribution.

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

  • 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: 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.

This information comes from the work of WWF and AFD’s Forest Scientific and Technical Committee.