Talk of timber ban: just the latest smokescreen from PNG forest industry

Posted on 01 January 2006
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) - Allegations that WWF has called on the Australian Government to ban timber imports from Papua New Guinea and other Southeast Asian countries are completely false and unfounded says the global conservation organisation.

"WWF has never advocated a ban on wood imports from these countries. These allegations appear to be the latest tactic of the forest industry in PNG to detract attention away from their unsustainable logging practices" - Mr Michael Avosa, WWF's Country Programme Manager.

WWF's policy is that timber importers should support legitimate forestry by ensuring that timber is independently verified as coming from a legal source.

A recent World Bank report estimates that 70% of PNG's log exports come from illegal sources, resulting in the government losing millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, revenue that could be used to further PNG's economic development3. So bad is the situation that in June this year, the UK timber industry, the fourth largest importer of timber products in the world, issued its own press release advising its members that dealing with products containing wood from PNG was too risky due to the lack of credible evidence of legality.

WWF supports the The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent forest management scheme, which is recognised by many timber-consuming countries as one of the few schemes, which guarantees that timber has come from legal and sustainable sources.

"Whilst everyone debates the merits of various certification schemes, our forests continue to be logged unsustainably. There are no certified forests in PNG because our logging industry has buried its head in the sand and refuses to come into the modern world of forestry by certifying its operations. It's unbelievable that our industry still practices a type of logging which even the modern global forest industry agrees is unsustainable, highly destructive and giving little economic return in the long run." - Mr Ted Mamu, WWF's Sustainable Forestry Officer.

To illustrate this point, a spokesperson for the PNG Forest Industry Association (FIA) announced in September "Only 31 per cent of PNG forests have been marked for commercial use". "Let's put this in perspective" said Mr Avosa.

"31 per cent clearance would destroy an area of forest more than five times the size of the World Heritage Listed tropical rainforests of Queensland and easily as important biologically and economically.This is the last great rainforest in the Asia Pacific, rivalling the Amazon for richness and harbouring creatures such as the extraordinary birds of paradise. It is also one of the few chances the country has for long term export income – but only if it is managed sustainably".

WWF successfully works with more than 300 major logging companies and timber consuming companies worldwide. The Global Forest & Trade Network, a successful partnership between WWF and forward-thinking members of the global forest industry, helps conserve the world's forests while providing economic and social benefits for the businesses and people that depend on them. The GFTN employs 1.5 million people globally and has annual forest product sales exceeding USD $48 billion per year.

"As well as depriving PNG of royalties and communities of sustainable livelihoods, illegal logging is an impediment to the PNG forest industry progressing to more sustainable practices." concluded Mr Avosa.

Editor's notes:

WWF has been working in PNG since 1995. Our work focuses on linking community action, science and effective policy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of forests, freshwater and marine resources across the island of New Guinea.
  1. Australia rejects calls to ban PNG forest products, 5 November 2006, The National (PNG)
  2. WWF’s statement on the importation of illegal timber into Australia (March, 2006)
  3. World Bank (August 2006), 'Strengthening Forest Law Enforcement and Governance'
  4. See Timber Trade Federation (UK) press release: ‘TTF Advises Members on PNG and Solomons’, released on 28 June 2006.
  5. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), promotes good forest management practice, ensuring that it is environmentally appropriate, as well as socially and economically beneficial. The FSC is one of the few forest certification systems accepted internationally, including by environmental NGOs, which provides the guarantee that wood products have come from a legal and sustainable source. Today, 82 million hectares of the world’s forests in 82 countries have been FSC-certified. Forest products derived from FSC-certified forests are allowed to carry the FSC trademark.
  6. 'A skewed vision from team green', 16 September 2006, The Australian
  7. WWF is helping forest managers in timber-producing countries to establish market links in timber-consuming countries, through its Global Forest & Trade Network, a successful initiative that now includes more than 300 major timber producing and consuming companies worldwide.

For further information please contact:
Lydia Kaia, Communications Officer, WWF Papua New Guinea, telephone: +675 320 0149; fax: +675 320 0519