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Indonesian mills audited

MATERIALS Timber trade commissions survey of mills to determine ability to work in legal and sustainable forestry

A DOZEN members of the Timber Trade Federation have commissioned an independent audit on illegal logging operations in Indonesia's rainforests.

The Tropical Forest Trust (TFT) is undertaking the study on behalf of the UK timber trade to investigate selected plywood mills for their ability and willingness to use only legal wood and to support sustainable forest management.

TFT says the results will enable UK importers to use their purchasing policies to push Indonesia's plywood sector towards legal and sustainable forestry.

Finnforest, one of the report's funders, said: 'All new contracts with Indonesian mills have been postponed since June and will remain on hold until the TFT study is published and suitable trading partners have been identified.'

Finnforest's environmental policy manager, Rachel Butler, added: 'Finnforest is committed to only working with those companies identified as being suitable by the Tropical Forest Trust.'

Under TFT's terms, these companies will have to demonstrate a commitment to eradicate illegal logging and implement sustainable forestry practices.

Ms Butler added: 'We believe this is the right message to send to Indonesia to highlight the seriousness of the situation while offering the forestry sector in Indonesia a viable economic reason to progress towards sustainable forestry and eventually certification.'

The study, due to be published next month, coincides with a Greenpeace campaign highlighting rainforest destruction caused by illegal logging and, in particular, the role played by UK imports.

According to Greenpeace, nearly 50 per cent of tropical plywood in the UK comes from Indonesia's rainforests.

The environmental pressure group says Indonesia is suffering from the highest rate of forest destruction in the world, which is driven by demand from countries such as the UK.

The World Bank estimates that at current rates of forest destruction, most of Indonesia's rainforests will be logged-out by 2010.

While Greenpeace warmly welcomed the suspension of trade with Indonesian mills, it maintained that no Indonesian supply is sustainable at present.

But it added that the TFT study is a positive development and the commercial pressures from UK importers could help to force reform of logging practices.