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Specified risks related to 22 sub-categories
Full Timber Legally Risk Assessment ENList of Applicable Legislation EN-FRRisk Mitigation Guide ENDocument Guide EN-FRAnalyse Risque Légalité FRGuide Actions Atténuation FR
Republic of Congo's forest cover represents about 65% of the national territory and is particularly located in the North and South-West of the country (FAO, 2020).
There are fairly large disparities in the state of the Congolese forests: forests of the North are better preserved due to the low population and forests of the South more threatened by human activities as well as the selective and intensive exploitation of a few species (Okoumé and Limba) (ATIBT, 2019).
Forest exploitation contributes about 5% to the Republic of Congo's GDP (ATIBT, 2019), and is thus the second largest national source of income after the hydrocarbon sector. Most log production is destined for export markets, with Asia (and in particular China) being the primary export destination, followed by Europe (ATIBT, 2019).
In the Congolese Constitution of 25 October 2015, the Congolese state solemnly reaffirms its permanent right of inalienable sovereignty over all national wealth and natural resources as fundamental elements of its development. The current Forestry Code was adopted in July 2020. The process of revising the previous Forestry Code, which dated from 2000, had started in 2014.
The Forest Code determines the overarching fundamental principles of forest management, the spatial distribution of the forest domain, the classification and declassification of forest land within the state-owned domain, the general conditions for the harvesting and processing of timber resources, the sale of timber products, reforestation, and access to forest genetic resources, etc. The ATIBT [International Tropical Timber Technical Association] notably reports that “the new forest code makes major breakthroughs, leading to progress or advancements in some cases, but restrictions to be lifted by implementing texts in others. In general, compared to the old legislation, the new forest code introduces several new concepts and greater definition of existing concepts (PES [payments for ecosystem services], certification, legality, factoring in of local communities, deforestation, climate change, carbon credits, occupancy tax, residue tax, forest or wild fauna inventory, FPIC, civil society, forestry subcontracting, etc.).” (ATIBT, 2020).
The new additions to the 2020 Forest Code “were driven by inadequacies reported during the application of the former law, and from experience acquired in sustainable forest management. They also include elements that adapt the law to the new sub-regional (Congo Basin) and international (tropical forests) context. That’s why they primarily focus on new topics (climate change, deforestation, carbon credits, certification, legality and traceability, payments for environmental services, etc.), taking into consideration the requirements of all agreements, treaties and conventions signed by the Congo (VPA-FLEGT, REDD+, CDB).” (ATIBT, 2020). It is important to note that some new elements in the 2020 Forest Code require additional implementing texts, particularly regarding matters like FPIC, forest communities, private forests, the running of the forest classification committee, the organisation of public tender procedures, and the exercise of user rights, etc. Various regulatory texts are explicitly provided for by this new law and are therefore expected to be developed in the near future.
Furthermore, other elements could create problems in terms of legal interpretation, such as the status (applicable or obsolete) of obligations arising from Decree n°437-2002 (Decree implementing the old Forest Code), which are not contrary to the new Forest Code.
Forest domain and logging titles
The Forest Code clearly distinguishes the state-owned forest domain from the private forest domain.
The state-owned forest domain is estimated at more than 20 million hectares, including 15 million hectares set as production forests, 3.9 million hectares for forest conservation and around 60,000 hectares for industrial plantations (FAO, 2020) (essentially made of Eucalyptus, Pine and Limba crops).
Forest governance in the Congo
The forestry sector in the Congo has been the subject of major difficulties in terms of governance. Chatham House assessed Congo’s legal and institutional framework and law enforcement as “weak” (2018). Moreover, Chatham House evaluates that timber exports contain between 60% and 70% of illegal timber (2011 to 2014). In addition, artisanal or so-called “informal” logging is also fuelling illegal timber logging. Some recent progress has been made in the form of improvements to the legislative framework, traceability procedures as well as to the allocation of harvesting rights. The elaboration of a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the European Union as well as the establishment of an Independent Monitor (IM) of forest law enforcement and governance within the VPA-FLEGT process were the main drivers behind this change. The Congo indeed signed its VPA - the first in the Congo Basin - in 2010, and it entered into force in March 2013. However, FLEGT licensing is still not operational, mainly due to difficulties in implementing the computer-based legality verification system.
An outline of the forestry sector in the Congo
Since the 2000s, State-based forest entities, which were very active between 1970 and 1980, have massively withdrawn from the forestry industry, leaving their place to private companies. There are currently around 30 forestry operators and 60 processing units in Congo (ATIBT, 2019). These supply the export market with logs and sawnwood. Despite the strategy to increase local processing, log exports continue to increase.
The informal and artisanal sector covers most of the domestic needs for wood products. A possible classification of logging companies (Duhesme, C., 2014; ATIBT, 2019) makes the distinction between:
Congolese bodies involved in forest management
Ministry of Forest Economy (MEF): Institutionally, the management of the country’s national forest resources is the exclusive responsibility of the Ministry of Forest Economy (MEF). The MEF is structured as follows:
Several legality risks are present in the Republic of Congo's timber supply chains. The risks are wide-ranging and appear across all categories of law. If you are sourcing timber from the Republic of Congo, you should take care to ensure the extensive risks identified are not present in your supply chains or have been sufficiently mitigated. VIEW LESS
Dedicated to supplying the domestic market.
Wood sold by public auction.
N.B. When the plantation is located on the land of a local community, it falls under the definition of community forest and the community can obtain logging permits.
Only concerns timber for remote areas and local supply.
N.B. local communities can obtain special permits to log community forests.
- a concession regime, set to last a maximum of 3 years following the signature of the agreement before being converted to the production sharing regime
- a production sharing regime: newly introduced in 2020 - this regime is still very uncertain and a decree must be adopted to specify how it is implemented
Source type almost non-existent currently
It can be under either:
- a concession regime: set to last a maximum of 3 years following the signature of the agreement before being converted to the production sharing regime
FSC certified area:
2.989 Mha, updated April 1, 2023