Ghana on course for EU timber trade licence
Ghana is in pole position to become the first African country to be issued the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licence to cover its timber and wood products traded on the European market.
This followed the conclusion of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) 14 years after the country signed the agreement.
The conclusion was reached during the 11th Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism (JMRM) meeting between Ghana and the EU in Brussels, Belgium, from September 20 to 26 this year.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, led a high-level Ghanaian delegation, made up of representatives from the ministry, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forest, and key stakeholder groups to the meeting.
The review mechanism was to advance the final procedural steps towards the issuance of FLEGT licences.
Ghana became the first timber-producing country to sign a VPA with the EU in November 2009.
A FLEGT licence is an export licence issued by a VPA partner country for timber or timber-related products destined for the EU market which certifies that the timber or timber-related products being exported under that licence are legal.
Under the FLEGT licence regime, timber and timber-related products covered by a valid FLEGT licence automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR),and prohibit illegally harvested timber and timber-related products derived from such timber from being placed on the EU market.
Fourteen years after the start of the implementation of the agreement, and after several significant technical, legal and governance developments in Ghana’s forestry sector, the parties agreed that the country is ready for FLEGT licensing.
This places Ghana as the second country in the world after Indonesia to begin the trade in legally certified wood and wood products with the EU under the FLEGT mechanism.
Ghana’s Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS), when it becomes fully operational in 2024, will mark over a decade of institutional and regulatory reforms in the trade in legal timber.
It will also be evidence of the government’s commitment to responsible management of the nation’s forest resources.
Outcome of meeting
The meeting in Brussels marked a major milestone in the global fight against illegal timber trade and testament to achieving the VPA objective of improved forest governance.
During the technical meetings, the parties reviewed and discussed the status of implementation of the agreement.
The parties also agreed on the joint action plan towards FLEGT licensing and raised outstanding procedural issues to be addressed before FLEGT licences could be issued.
The FLEGT licences attest to the legality of Ghana’s timber, and will facilitate trade in timber and timber-related products for both exporters and importers.
The Director-General at the European Commission's Directorate General for International Partnerships (INTPA), Koen Doens, commended the country for what he described as “a remarkable dedication by Ghana to sustainable forest management and the combatting of illegal logging”.
He said the dedication by the government of Ghana and key actors in the forestry sector, as well as the support and cooperation of the European partners, was what facilitated the FLEGT licensing.
“This achievement underscores the power of international cooperation in addressing critical global challenges such as deforestation and illegal logging.
We look forward to the positive impact that FLEGT licensing will have on Ghana's timber industry and the broader environment, demonstrating how partnerships and persistent efforts can lead to meaningful change," he said.
Mr Jinapor said Ghana had undertaken major legislative reforms in its forestry sector to enhance forest governance.
He said those reforms supported the objectives of the VPA and the country’s commitment to sustainable forest management and the fight against climate change.
The Land and Natural Resources Minister added that the country was also addressing the trade in illegal timber in both domestic and regional markets.
He said it was in that regard that the country was rolling out a new system for tracking timber on the domestic market that involved both suppliers and traders, and required proof of legality through the chain of custody.
“Through the VPA, Ghana is controlling illegal timber trade, modernising timber operations and ensuring forestry brings employment in the formal economy and social benefits such as payments to communities through social responsibility agreements,” he said.
Mr Jinapor said the country had seen significant improvements in forest governance with the implementation and operation of the timber legality assurance system.
He observed that the forthcoming issuance of FLEGT licences to the EU market and licences to other international destinations would be undergirded with the same legality standards.
The minister said the country’s commitment to the VPA, as well as halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030, remained absolute.