Republic of the Congo
According to the FAO (2015) Congo, officially known as Republic of the Congo and often referred to as Congo-Brazzaville, has around 22.3 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 65,4% of the total land area. Almost the whole area of forested land is primary or otherwise naturally regenerated forest, and only a relatively small part of 71 thousand hectares is planted forest. While practically all the natural forests are publicly owned, the law (Indigenous Peoples Rights Law) recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples living in those forests. The forest areas of the State consist of forests owned by the state, local authorities and public bodies. The law also recognizes private property on forest areas, including private forests and private forest plantations.
Congo has two principal forest zones, one in the south and the main area in the north. The southern part covering approximately 4 million hectares and is formed by the Mayombe and Chaillu forests. The Mayombe forests were originally rich in Okoumé (Aucoumea klaineana), and cover less than 1 million hectares. The Chaillu forests are rich in Okoumé (Aucoumea klaineana), Limba (Terminalia superba), Ilomba (Pycnanthus angolensis) and Sipo (Entandrophragma utile). The dense, humid forests of the northern zone cover more than 16 million hectares, and contain commercially important redwoods such as Sipo (Entandrophragma utile), Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum), Wengé (Millettia laurentii) as well as light hardwoods such as Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon). Over 4.3 million hectares of the Congolese forest area is under protection, either as national park or another type of reserve, with the majority lying in the northern forest zone.
Congo has a relatively low recent historical deforestation rate, compared to many other tropical forest countries, although this rate is increasing with major drivers being forest clearance for (industrial) agriculture, illegal and unsustainable logging, and urban development. Deforestation is more intense in the South; the North is only sparsely populated and to a large extent inaccessible.
Production and export
Congo’s forest sector was the main engine of the national economy for a long time, until the discovery of oil. But Congo’s forest sector is still a major producer of tropical hardwoods with key products including logs, sawn wood and wood-based panels.
As can be observed from the table above, the Congolese forest industry produced in 2015 about 2.2 million m3 of logs. This table shows that around 35% of Congo’s timber production is exported as logs. Most of the rest is exported as sawn timber. The total export value of primary timber products was around 406.7 million US dollars in 2015.
The Congolese timber industry is strongly oriented towards export of logs, despite efforts made to reverse this trend. An important driver to reverse this trend originates from the Congolese legislation, which forces companies to process at least 85% of their production in the country or pay a surcharge on log exports.
Most timber is produced in the northern zone, where large forest management units have been allocated to large industrial companies. Even in the southern part, with its long history of harvesting the forest management units, national harvesters are in several cases replaced by Asian companies.
Very little secondary processing takes place within Congo. Although more than 80 species are harvested, two-thirds of the logs are of just two species:
- Okoumé (Aucoumea klaineana)
- Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum).
The Okoumé is harvested in the southern forests, the Sapelli in the northern forests.
Other commonly harvested commercial species include:
- Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon)
- Bossé (Guarea cedrata)
- Iroko (Milicia excelsa)
- Kossipo (Entandrophragma candollei)
- Limba (Terminalia superba)
- Padouk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)
- Sipo (Entandrophragma utile)
- Wengé (Millettia laurentii)
Northern Congo has limited infrastructure and the ports are far away. There are 2 commonly used export routes for Congolese timber. Via river and land to the port of Pointe Noire in the South, and via land to the port of Douala in Cameroon.
Sources of information
- FAO (2015) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
- Fordaq - timber trade network
- Forest Legality Alliance country profile – Republic of Congo.
- ITC (International Trade Centre) calculations based on UN Comtrade statistics
- ITTO (2011) Status of tropical forest management 2011 – Republic of the Congo
- ITTO (2015) ITTO Biennial review and assessment of the world timber situation 2013-2014.
- APV FLEGT Congo
- Republic of Congo | Illegal Logging Portal
- Initiative pour la forêt de l’Afrique centrale (CAFI) - Meridian Institute
- ClientEarth - environmental lawyers | Base de données - Congo 
- ClientEarth - environmental lawyers | The Republic of Congo 
- Republic of the Congo | Global Forest Watch
- Forest Atlas of Congo
- Congo Rainforest and Basin | Places | WWF
- Lawson, S. (2014) Illegal Logging in the Republic of Congo. Energy, Environment and Resources EER PP 2014/02.
- Protected planet
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Congo with container liner service.
In Congo the allocation of the main exploitation licenses is done following an invitation to tender launched through an Order from the Minister for Water and Forests. The most recent calls for tender (6 concessions in late 2015) were published on http://www.mefdd.cg/menu-haut/recrutement/
Exploitation licenses can only be allocated to companies with among others a valid trader license and a valid license of the department of Forestry. License holders have the right to collect limited quantities of forest products, and exploitation licenses are granted only to companies incorporated under the Congolese laws. Foreign private companies willing to carry out logging activities in Congo must, therefore, establish subsidiaries in accordance with Congolese law. Furthermore, logging companies with foreign capital shall open their share-capital to Congolese citizens.
The main exploitation / logging rights under Congolese law are:
- Industrial processing agreements (convention de transformation industrielle - CTI), which gives forest operators the right to collect from Forest Management Units, annual quotas of species, based on a compulsory management plan. Companies holding this permit are required to process rough wood in an own industrial processing unit. The validity of these operation permits may not exceed 15 years and may be renewed.
- Management and processing agreements (convention d’aménagement et de transformation - CAT), are identical to the agreements for industrial processing, except that the holders are required to carry out silvicultural operations as provided for in development plans of the concerned Forest Management Unit. The validity of these operations permits may not exceed 25 years. They are indefinitely renewed, except when the beneficiary fails to meet its obligations, species become scarce or due to any public interest grounds. In this last instance, the State shall compensate the holder for the loss suffered.
In addition to the above-mentioned permits the Congolese law knows also the following exploitation licenses:
- Plantation timber harvesting permits (permis de coupe des bois de plantations), which concern the exploitation of trees from forest plantations, which are part of State-owned forest estate. The validity of these permits is determined according to the amount of trees to be collected and may not exceed six months. They may be extended only due to cases of force majeure.
- Special permits (permis spéciaux - PS), where the holders have the right to commercially exploit accessory forest products in specified number and areas. These holders may also be authorized to exploit a limited number of timber species for commercial purposes. Special Permits may be granted only to Congolese individuals, NGOs and associations incorporated under Congolese laws which apply for them. Therefore, commercial companies are not concerned. Special permits are valid for a month and may not be renewed.
The exploitation license holders shall prepare forest management plans, which have to be approved by the department of Forestry. To be allowed to harvest, the company needs to prepare and submit an annual harvest application file (forest inventory, maps, etc.) to the Departmental Directorate of Forest Economy (Direction Départementale de l’Economie Forestière - DDEF). After verification and approval of this application file by the Forest Authority an annual harvest license is granted.
After receiving the annual harvest license the timber can be felled. The harvested trees are recorded in an official worksite book (carnet de chantier), which includes the details of the individual harvested logs. All harvested logs are hammered with a tree mark registered by the company at the district court, and includes a company identifier, the tariff area and the felling number. All the billets coming from the same harvested tree have the same marks, plus the billet number. Transportation documents (feuille de route), including a log list, for the transport of the logs from the forest are prepared and accompany the logs. The log details need to be in correspondence with the worksite book.
For sawmill processing the logs need to have a license from the ministry of Forestry. The capacity of the processing facility cannot exceed the annual harvesting volume of the company´s concession to which the facility is related. Registers of incoming and outgoing timber need to be maintained, and are checked by the DDEF.
Exporting companies need to obtain an export declaration issued by the Ministry of Commerce after written authorization by the Ministry of Forestry. When exporting the company needs to attach completed specification sheets detailing species, quality and quantity of all timber products exported
The Service de Contrôle des produits forestiers a l’exportation (SCPFE) is a government agency in charge of quantitative and qualitative checks of timber and timber products. www.scpfe.cg/index.htm. SCPFE issues the Attestation de Vérification Export (AVE). The AVE certifies that the declared product data has been checked and authorizes the exportation of the product. The AVE is transmitted to the Congolese Customs by the Exporter and serves as a reference document for the collection of the export tax. The AVE and the product specification accompany the exported product.
The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin. The full list of applicable legislation is accessible here. Please note that the forest law and its implementing regulations are being revised. A new forest law may be promulated before the end of 2016.
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
Congolese legislation (article 180 of the Forest Code, amended by Law No. 14-2009 of 30 December 2009) states that at least 85% of the timber production in the country needs to be processed in the country. Exceeding this limit of 15% shall result in payment of a 35% surcharge on the FOB value, as per specie quality.
Moreover, this article 180 creates a national market of quotas allowing transfer of quotas between companies which have processed more than 85% of timber and companies which have not reached 85% of production. This would imply that companies, which have not processed 85% of their rough timber production, may buy the missing quotas to comply with the Congolese legislation.
Cites and protected species
There are some tree species listed on CITES Appendix II from Congo;
- Afromosia (Pericopsis elata). This CITES listing applies to logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets. Congo has a quota for this species of 6309 m3 of logs and sawn wood in 2015.
- African cherry (Prunus africana). This CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds, spores and pollen; seedling or tissue cultures obtained in vitro, in solid or liquid media, transported in sterile containers.
National action on timber legality
Congo and the EU entered into negotiations for a voluntary partnership agreement in June 2008. The Agreement was signed in May 2010, and ratified in February 2013. Research undertaken by the NGO Fern collated the views of civil society groups who are directly involved in VPA projects in Congo. The results show that VPAs have enhanced the capacity and participation of civil society organisations in forest governance initiatives, and that VPA actions have provided the political space and structures that enable civil society organisations to be agents for change.
Third party certification
A relatively small part of the Congolese forest area has been certified under a voluntary scheme. Thus far 2,625,003 hectares are covered by a FSC FM certificate, and a national FSC standard (FSC-STD-RoC-01-2012) has been developed covering natural forests, plantations and Small and Low Intensity Managed Forest. An additional 1,696,211 hectares are certified against Rainforest Alliance’s standard for Verification of Legal Compliance (VLC).
Sources of information
- Article: Forest Legislation in the Republic of Congo (October 2013)
- CITES database
- FSC report “Facts & Figures” – July 2016
- Ministère de l’économie forestière et du développement Durable (Forest Ministry): http://www.mefdd.cg/accueil/
- Congo – EU (2011) Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of the Congo on forest law enforcement, governance and trade in timber and derived products to the European Union (FLEGT)
- Do FLEGT VPA’s improve governance? – briefing note FERN ; www.fern.org/sites/fern.org/files/impactreportFINAL_LOWRES_0.pdf
- Resource Extraction Monitoring, Investigating law enforcement in the field to spark governance reform www.rem.org.uk/Reports2.html
- WWF GFTN & TRAFFIC (2012) Framework for Assessing Legality of Forestry Operations, Timber Processing and Trade Annex - Republic of Congo.
- Forest Legality Alliance country profile – Republic of Congo.
- Rainforest Alliance (November 2015)
République du Congo
Tel: +242 06 978 44 45
The regional departments of the Ministry of Forestry are among others responsible for the enforcement of laws and regulations regarding wildlife, forests and protected areas; and for the control of activities on forests, wood industry, fauna, flora, protected areas and waters.
République du Congo
Tel: +242 05 665 56 00
Centre Ville B.P.: 92
République du Congo
Brazzaville, République du Congo
Source: Transparancy International