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European Timber Regulation does not cover all timber imports

Margret Köthke | 18.10.2022

WF Institute of Forestry

The EU Timber Regulation is one of the key measures of the European Union to combat illegal logging. The analysis of the wood imports describes the efficiency of this regulation.

Illegal logging is one of the major global causes of deforestation and forest degradation. Trade in illegally harvested timber and products made from it has negative social and economic impacts - in both producer and consumer countries.

Despite international efforts to combat illegal logging, the problem remains widespread. Due to the illegal nature of the problem, accurate figures on the amount of illegal logging are not available. According to calculations by the Thünen Institute, illegal logging worldwide in 2009 ranged from 100 to nearly 300 million cubic meters of raw wood - just under 10-20% of the total global logging. The Thünen Institute calculated that in 2009, 2-5% of timber imports to Germany and 6-13% of timber imports to the EU came from illegal sources.

Causes of illegal logging

In a cross-country comparison, the Thünen Institute investigated the causes of illegal logging. The results show that, in addition to physical-geographical characteristics, a number of factors related to the degree and speed of a country's economic-institutional development are significantly associated with illegal logging. These include, for example, economic growth, the degree of government accountability, rule of law, and the presence of corruption. Armed conflict and population pressure, on the other hand, have a smaller impact. The study's findings are also of interest for possible improvements to existing policies to combat illegal logging.

European Timber Trade Regulation to combat illegal logging

The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) is an important European Union measure to combat illegal logging worldwide. Since 2013, it has banned the placing of illegally harvested timber or timber products on the EU internal market.
However, the EUTR does not apply to all wood products. The annex to the EUTR lists exactly which goods the regulation applies to. The focus is naturally on

  • Raw timber and classic timber products such as sawn timber, plywood or carpentry and joinery,
  • pulp from wood as well as
  • Paper, cardboard and goods made from them.
  • In addition, some wooden furniture and prefabricated wooden houses are listed.

Certain product groups such as seating furniture, brushes and paintbrushes, tools, charcoal or waste paper and printed paper are not yet affected by the regulation. Against this background, the question arises as to how many of all imported wood products are covered by the regulation.

What efficiency does the EUTR actually achieve?

Calculations by the Thünen Institute show that in 2020 about 87% of the imported timber volumes into the EU has been covered by the EUTR. However, the EUTR did not apply to wood quantities of approx. 20 million m³ (measured in roundwood equivalents) in 2020. This value is distributed almost equally between wood and paper products.

Looking at the different product groups, raw materials show a higher degree of coverage than processed products or even finished goods. The largest share of imports of non-accounted products into the EU is accounted for by recovered paper, the product group "other articles of wood" (including charcoal), furniture (especially chairs) and printed media.

In November 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new regulation to replace the EUTR. In its current version, the proposed regulation considers the same products as the EUTR. However, in addition to combating illegality in the timber trade, the new regulation is also intended to combat deforestation and forest degradation.

In Germany, about 27,000 companies that import wood or wood products are subjected to the EUTR. In 2018, the Thünen Centre of Competence conducted a survey among German importers on the implementation of the EUTR. It showed that small companies outside the timber sector in particular are often unaware of the EUTR.

Only 42% of the 540 market participants surveyed were aware of the EUTR and that the directive also applies to them. However, these companies together import 91% of all EUTR products (in terms of total value in euros). 28% of operators reported having the mandatory due diligence system in place (see figure).

These results reflect that mainly large companies in the wood sector are aware of and implement the EUTR. Small companies and companies from outside the industry are often not aware of the EUTR at all. However, these small companies make up the majority of importing market participants.


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