Concerns are being raised about the certification and legality of timber being imported into the European Union from countries such as Brazil.
Only around a quarter of the wood products imported in 2014 were certified legal, up from 19 per cent in 2007. The statistics refer to the 17 countries in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU, which aims to reduce illegal logging and ensure that wood being imported into the EU comes from legal and sustainable sources.
Companies such as Greenwood Management work to ensure sustainable and legal uses of timber, and to stamp out illegal harvesting in countries such as Brazil.
The new figures show that there was a low level of verification of forest products from Latin American countries. Only a very small area of the Amazon rainforest is certified to produce legal timber, however much of the wood imported by the EU from Brazil is eucalyptus and softwood which is harvested from mainly certified areas outside of the tropical zone.
The figures are more worrying for Southeast Asia and Africa. If all the wood imported to the EU from Africa was licensed, the figure would increase from 11 per cent to 60 per cent and from 25 per cent to 95 per cent in Southeast Asia.
Over all, if all the countries that are part of the scheme had only shipped verified timber to the EU, the amount of certified wood being imported would be eight per cent higher at 33 per cent.
Meanwhile, Brazilian exports of wood to other South American countries is increasing. Data from the Mexican Association of Timber Importers showed the country bought 55 per cent more timber products from Brazil in 2015 than it did in 2010. The monetary value increased from US$18 million in 2010 to US$139 million in 2015.