Mon, 03 Feb 2003

Japan to help RI curb illegal timber trade

Rendi A. Witular The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The Indonesian government is set to sign a cooperation agreement with its Japanese counterpart in April this year to help curb widespread international trading in illegal timber.

Ministry of Forestry spokesman Tachrir Fathoni told The Jakarta Post last week that the cooperation was needed as Japan had long been a major market for illegal timber-based products.

"We expect the cooperation will cut the chain of illegal timber trading with Japan and, at the same time, help trace the origin of the timber," said Tachrir.

Tachrir said that officially, Japan stopped importing logs from Indonesia in 2001. However, based on the ministry's investigation, an estimated 500,000 cubic meters of illegal timber was circulating in Japan.

Indonesia's forests have been badly hit by widespread illegal logging.

Local forestry-related businesses have also been affected by illegal logging, as logs smuggled to timber processors in Malaysia and China could establish a position in the lucrative Japanese market by producing much cheaper products.

Lower prices are possible because the logs sold illegally are not subject to various taxes.

Tachrir said that under the planned agreement with Japan, the two countries would cooperate in developing and implementing a verification system to detect and identify the legality of logs and wood products sold in Japan.

The ministry said that Japan would issue a new standard for all the country's timber-based products this year. Japan would open an agency in Indonesia to measure the standard of the products and issue product certifications.

A certificate would be needed for a product to enter Japan. All timber-based products that failed to carry the certificate would be stamped as illegal.

Tachrir added that Japan would establish a system to enable it to trace the origin of timber-based products entering the country.

Last year, the government signed a similar cooperation agreement with China and Malaysia, as the two countries had long been the largest receivers of illegal logs from Indonesia.

In the same year, the government also signed an agreement with the UK and European Union to help stop international illegal trading in logs and to boost efforts to protect forests.

The UK and several countries in the European Union are also an attractive market for illegal timber-based products from the country.

However, until now the cooperation has yet to show any significant result.