Analysis: Indonesian forestry sector

According to the FAO (2015), Indonesia has around 91 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 53% of the total land area. Indonesia has three categories of forest land: Conservation Forests, Protection Forests, and Production Forests. More than half of the Indonesian forest area is production forest and 87% is owned by the State.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest exporters of tropical timber products. It exports a wide variety of timber products, ranging from plywood, pulp and paper to furniture and handicrafts. Commonly harvested species for the timber industry include Meranti, Keruing, Kapur, Mersawa and Teak (from plantations). The product that is most exported is plywood, followed by sawnwood, industrial roundwood and, in less proportion, veneer.

According to the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor, the top 3 export destinations of Indonesia in the last year were China, USA and Japan. The year before, the EU accounted for 9% of Indonesia’s total export value and 5% of export quantity. Within the EU, the top 3 countries that import timber from Indonesia are the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

In 2007, negotiations for the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU started and the agreement was made in 2011 and formally signed in 2013. On the 15 of November of 2016 Indonesia began issuing FLEGT licenses. The backbone of the FLEGT-VPA process is the Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK), which is a mandatory system applicable for implementation to every timber-related business in Indonesia. The SVLK ensures the timber industry uses legal raw materials and is required for export to all countries, not only the EU. This guarantee that all timber exported from Indonesia is legal makes the country unique in the timber sector.

Furthermore, the FLEGT-VPA process contributed also to capacity building of NGOs and civil society that enabled these actors to participate actively in the transformation of the forestry sector. This is reflected in the independent monitoring function of the SVLK which is operated by civil society, a big step forward because before this process there was no system in place for people who witness illegality or irregularities to complain.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, 80% of timber from Indonesia was believed to come from an illegal source, before the VPA process started. There were many legal gaps in their forestry legal framework and many took advantage of the situation. Since the implementation of the SVLK, the exports of timber and timber related products have increased quite significantly. In value terms, Indonesia’s worldwide exports of all timber and timber products increased dramatically in the two years following FLEGT licensing. Total export value increased by 13% to US$11.4 billion in 2017 and by another 13% to US$12.9 billion in 2018.

Surprisingly, Indonesia’s trade ministry issued a regulation in February, to take effect on May 27 that removes the V-legal licenses that verify the timber legality for wood exports. This license is at the heart of the SVLK and without it, there is no system in place at the downstream level to make sure that there’s no illegal timber mixed with legal timber in the process. It was argued by this ministry that the COVID19 crisis is affecting trade and this regulation intends to increase the timber trade by making the process easier. However, this regulation drew criticism from many actors involves who have already experienced the benefits of the FLEGT licensing and the SVLK. In consequence, the trade ministry cancelled the regulation that revoked the requirement of the V-legal license.

The mobilization of different actors against this regulation shows that they back the SVLK and that the VPA-FLEGT process has brought benefits that were threatened by this new regulation. Now that the trade ministry has confirmed that the V-legal license is still required and the integrity of the SVLK is preserved, Indonesia will remain as one of the countries at the forefront of tropical timber legality assurance. As most of the actors involved have demonstrated, this is beneficial for almost everyone in the forestry sector.

With FLEGT licensing in place, Indonesia will remain as one of the countries at the forefront of tropical timber legality assurance. All timber that is exported from Indonesia is legal and therefore requires minimal due diligence to be conducted by the buyer. For this reason, buyers looking for new sources should look to see if the products they need can be sourced from Indonesia. The Responsible Timber Exchange has over 80 offers from Indonesia currently available. Check out the trading platform and see if one of these products matches your needs.


Blog post by Isabela Nuñez del Prado 

Land Use Analyst, BVRio