afrol News, 5 October - By 2012, all shipments of wood products from Cameroon to the EU will be required to carry a license showing that they contain timber and wood products from a legal origin, excluding illegal logging, it was announced today.
The innovative effort comes after the signing of a voluntary partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and Cameroon, which is the largest African exporter of timber products to the EU.
The agreement comes as a result of government commitment to eradicate illegal logging and underpins Cameroon's ongoing reforms towards good governance of the forest sector and development. Illegal logging has earlier been a major source of deforestation and black economy in Cameroon.
It also comes as a result of consumer trends in Europe, where green politics and environmental consciousness have created demands of sustainable wood production. European consumers from now would have "confidence that wood products, such as furniture, imported from Cameroon are of legal origin," according to an EU-Cameroon joint statement.
Negotiations of the agreement between Cameroon and the EU started in 2007 and have included the engagement of civil society and private sector representatives.
Global and local environmentalist groups have strongly aided Cameroonian authorities in reaching its goals of a sustainable timber industry. A national wood traceability system is already under development as a consequence of such help.
The technological and logistical challenges for such a large licensing system have been massive. Cameroon is about to set up a national system to ensure legal compliance in timber production, covering all timber and wood products being sold to the EU, but also on the domestic market and to non-EU markets.
Cameroon has also better defined its protected areas and set aside large forested tracts as national parks. Cameroon is one of the main timber exporting countries of the Congo Basin, which constitutes the world's second largest tropical forest.
But timber and wood products still constitute an important economic sector in the country and some 80 percent of Cameroon's timber is exported to the EU.
Through the new licensing agreement, Cameroonian timber exports to its main market however are secured for a long time. The EU as part of the agreement guarantees "unrestricted access to its entire market for all timber products coming from Cameroon that have been verified legal."
The European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, signed on behalf of the EU. He noted that the new agreement was "a major step forward in our fight against illegal logging and will contribute to economic development and poverty alleviation in Cameroon."
This is the third in a series of bilateral accords that are negotiated between the EU and timber producing countries. Agreements were signed with Congo Brazzaville earlier this year and with Ghana in 2009.
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