Gateway to international timbertrade


Forest resources

According to the FAO (2015) India has around 70.7 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 23.8% of the total land area. Around 15.7 million hectares are primary forest, 43 million hectares of otherwise naturally regenerated forest, and around 12 million hectares are planted forest. India’s annual change rate is positive and varies between 0.2 and 0.7% per year, indicating a constant expansion in forested area by about 1 million ha per year through afforestation projects. About 86% of the forest area is publicly owned, for the biggest part administered by the government, for the other part those public lands are reserved for communities and indigenous groups, the other 14% is privately owned. Public lands can be classified as protected, production or village forests.

India is one of the twelve mega-biodiverse countries, hosting 7% of the world’s biodiversity. Many flora or fauna species are endemic to India. Indian forest types include tropical evergreens, tropical deciduous, swamps, mangroves, sub-tropical, montane, scrub, sub-alpine and alpine forests. The most widely distributed genera in tropical wet evergreen forests are Dipterocarpus, Hopea, Callophyllum and Syzgium, and the families Lauraceae and Myrthaceae are also well represented. Tropical moist deciduous forests are characterized by Tectona grandis (teak) and others by Shorea robusta (sal). (Forest legality Alliance)

A major threat to forests of India is the slash-and-burn shifting cultivation to grow food, especially in its northeastern states. According to Forest Legality Alliance, 41% of forest in India is classed as “degraded,” due to heavy use pressure on the forest from fuel wood collection and cattle grazing. The 275 million people living in forest areas, including 88 million “tribals,” rely heavily on forests for fuel, fodder, grazing, wood, and non-timber forest products (NTFP’s).

Production and export

According to ITTO (2017) the industry of India produced in 2015 almost 50 million m3 of logs, of which only a minor portion was exported. In this year the export value of primary timber products exceeded 72.6 million US dollars.

India has a thriving range of industries for semi-processed and value-added timber products, including wooden handicrafts, pulp and paper, plywood and veneer and wooden furniture. Exports of wooden handicrafts in particular are on the rise.

Commonly harvested species from natural forests in India include, among others:

  • Teak (Tectona grandis), both from natural and planted forests.
  • Sal (Shorea robusta)
  • Acacia catechu
  • Pyinkado (Xylia xylocarpa)

Common planted species include, among others, fast-growing (and short rotation) species of:

  • Teak (Tectona grandis) is the most widely planted timber species in India, and most of the teak is harvested from planted forests.
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)
  • Acacia (Acacia spp.)

Although India is one of the world’s top producers of tropical logs, it is also one of the world’s largest consumers of wood products. India cannot meet its own demand for wood products with domestic supply, and as a result is currently the world’s 2nd largest importer of tropical logs. India is a major producer of wood-based products, including pulp, paper, plywood, furniture, wooden handicrafts, and veneers. Its major exporting hubs are the EU, US and the Middle East (Forest legality Alliance).

Legality framework

Forest governance

In India the national (central) and state governments are jointly responsible for the sustainable management of the forest resource. In a practical sense, the state forest departments have a double role. They act as the custodians of the public forest resource and as the forest authorities, managing the forest resources on the basis of forest management plans that they submit to the central government. Often the state authorities also perform a commercial function, becoming involved in production, processing and trade through forest development corporations responsible for production within the public forest estate (Forest Legality).

Legal rights to harvest

All private companies must implement a Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation Plan, approved by the State Forest Department, when forest clearance is involved.

There are several national policies, however, as the Indian Forest Act of 1927 empowered Indian state governments to enact rules regulating various aspects of forest management, rules differ from state to state. Different states have different restrictions on felling of wood/timber raised on private land, based upon area, intended use and species.

According to the Vriksh Indian Timber Legality Assessment and Verification Standard, the following are legal sources of timber in India:

  1. State Forest Divisions: A forest Division is a territorially well-defined administrative unit of the state forest department and the government owned forests therein are managed under approved working plans that are revised/updated periodically. The commercial harvesting of the trees/forest products is generally entrusted to SFDCs.
  2. State Forest Development Corporation (SFDC): SFDCs are state owned legally registered entities. The SFDC harvest the forest areas through a long term MoU with State Forest Department.
  3. Individual Tree Owners: Growing trees on farmlands has been an integral part of the traditional agriculture practices in India. The farm owners may be growing the trees as block plantations, windbreaks and shelterbelts or as bund/boundary planting.
  4. Private Plantations: Timber may also be grown on private plantations by individuals/corporate either alone or as an intercrop. There are practices of cultivation of tree crops as intercrops in coffee and tea fields etc.

Furthermore, imported timber is an important source of meeting the huge short fall in supply of wood/ timber to meet the growing requirements in the country.

A timber harvesting company or farmer should have permission. Saw mill companies must be legally registered and hold a valid license according to applicable laws and regulations.

Taxes and fees
Timber harvesting activities

All forests are managed under the prescriptions of a working plan prepared for a period of 10 years, according to the National Working Plan Code (2014) on the basis of principles of sustainable forest management and recognized practices. No harvesting can be done in any forest area without an approved working plan. The National Working Plan Code defines the content of a working plan and the topics that should be covered, such as objectives, organizational structure, preparation of maps, monitoring and reporting, harvesting and exploitation up to compartment level. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the authority that should approve the actual working plan of a forest management company. Special attention is paid to communities, they shall agree a Joint Forest Management (JFM), which basically is memorandum of understanding, in which responsibilities, authority and usufructs are shared between the village community/ forest user group and the forest department. (National Working Plan Code, 2014)

Third parties' rights
Trade and transport

In India international timber trade is regulated by the Export Import policy (EXIM), which is a five-year Policy Directive under the central government’s Foreign Trade (Development Regulation) Act 1992 (FTRD). The Authority under the FTRD act is the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under the Ministry of Commerce. Specific forest products are classified depending on whether they are restricted, regulated or prohibited. All species exported /imported are authorized by the DGFT as per the EXIM policy. Importing or exporting entities must have a valid license/permit issued by DGFT. Entities must follow all transit rules for timber at international borders as enacted by the central government under section 41A of Indian Forest Act 1927, as well as State Transit Rules.

Key documents

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 (WWF / GFTN).


Working plan – according to requirements of the National Working Plan Code (NWPC)
All forests are managed under the prescriptions of an working plan / scheme for the period of 10 years, and approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. No harvesting can be done in any forest area without an approved working plan.
Harvesting permit
State Forest Division (SFD) of the relevant state
Different states in the country have different restrictions on felling of timber, based upon area, intended use and species and is regulated by laws, rules and regulations prevalent in that state. Most state regulations distinguish on species, and include minimum girth specifications.
Transit pass
State Forest Division (SFD) of the relevant state
Company responsible for extraction of timber from the forest also needs a transit pass. Some species are exempted from the transit pass.

Processing and Trade

Transit permit / transit pass
State Forest Division (SFD) of the relevant state
States are empowered to enact Transit rules regulating the movement of forest produce, including timber, within the state. NB: states have prescribed their own transit rules regulating movement of timber and it varies from state to state.
EXIM license
Sales records – invoice
Prepared by the selling party and covering the specific batch.
Bill of lading
Prepared by the selling party and covering the specific batch.

Bans and quota

  • India has banned the export of unprocessed logs.
  • India has placed an export ban on Sandalwood timber.
  • Indian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) logs and sawn timber is banned from export under the Indian Forest Act.

Cites and protected species

The Government of India has banned the export for commercial purposes of all wild-taken specimens of species included in Appendices I, II and III, but permitted the export of cultivated varieties of plant species included in Appendices I and II - Notification 1999 / 039 of CITES.

There are some tree species listed on CITES Appendix II from India.

  • Agarwood (Aquilaria spp.)
  • Agarwood (Gyrinops spp.)
  • Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis)
  • Himalayan may-apple (Podophyllum hexandrum)
  • Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana)
  • Ramin (Gonystylus macrophyllus)
  • Red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus). India will authorize the export of specimens of any type, from 310 metric tonnes of wood per year from artificially propagated source (Source "A") and a one-time export of specimens of any type, from 9090.09 metric tonnes of wood from confiscated or seized source (Source "I")
  • Serpentine wood (Rauvolfia serpentine)
  • Taxus fuana

National action on timber legality

India is not a VPA country. India does not plan to sign a VPA since it has banned the export of unprocessed logs. It is however a priority country for the EU FLEGT Asia Regional Support Programme (FLEGT Asia).

Third party certification

The Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has developed the following standard: “VRIKSH” TIMBER LEGALITY ASSESSMENT AND VERIFICATION SCHEME – INDIA. This standard has been designed to allow organizations to avoid trading in illegally harvested Wood, for verification of Legality and legal origin of wood and wood products is intended for organizations who want to accurately track and make claims about the legal origin and transport of their products.

Compliance with this standard allows organizations to demonstrate that they are implementing best efforts to avoid the trade in illegally harvested timber, in support of the international Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) program, the European Union Timber Regulations (EUTR), The US Lacey Act Amendment 2008, The Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 and other such Global Timber Legality Verification Programs. It allows companies to start implementing their own responsible sourcing policies.

Four aspects of legality to be covered under the ambit of this standard are:

  • Legal right to harvest and trade within legally gazetted boundaries
  • Compliance with legislation related to forest management, environment, labour and welfare, health and safety
  • Compliance with legislation related to taxes and royalties
  • Compliance with requirements for trade and export procedures.

National Forest Certification System and Standard (NFCSS)

The process to develop India’s forest certification system was launched on March 16, 2015  at the “International Conference on Forest Certification – Positioning India”, co-hosted by NCCF and PEFC International. The conference brought together government, business and civil society stakeholders to discuss the status of forests in India and to learn from international experts about the benefits of functioning certification systems of sustainable forestry in other countries. Currently, the NCCF is in the process of developing the Draft Forest Management Certification Standard (V0) through a multi stakeholder Standard Development Group (SDG), represented by professional foresters, premier forestry research and academic institutions of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (ICFRE and IIFM), business groups, forest based industries, NGOs such as WWF (social and environment related), workers and trade unions, and certification bodies etc. The Draft V 0 will be soon put for public consultation for period of 2 months starting the October 2016, after which the revised standard will be pilot tested in India.


During the past years, the use of international forest certification systems, particularly Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, has increased, partly because of the response towards FLEGT among buyers in the EU (Forest Legality Alliance). Currently there are 10 valid FSC-SFM-certificates, with a joint area of 750,000 hectares. (FSC Facts & Figures, June 2016).


Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change - MoEFCC
Directorate General of Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi, India
Implements policies and programs relating to conservation of the country's natural resources including forests and wildlife.
Indian Council for Forestry, Research and Education (ICFRE)
An Autonomous Body of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, has been undertaking the holistic development of forestry research through need based planning, promoting, conducting and coordinating research, education and extension covering all aspects of forestry. The Council deals with the solution based forestry research in tune with the emerging issues in the sector, including global concerns such as climate change, conservation of biological diversity, combating desertification and sustainable management and development of resources.
Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM)
Po Box 357, Nehru Nagar
Bhopal MP, India
The Indian Institute of Forest Management is a sectoral management institute, which constantly endeavors to evolve knowledge useful for the managers in the area of Forest, Environment and Natural Resources Management and allied sectors. It disseminates such knowledge in ways that promote its application by individuals and organizations
Forest Research Institute (FRI)
The Forest Research Institute is an institute of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and is a premier institution in the field of forestry research in India.
WWF India
172 B, Lodhi Estate
New Delhi, India
WWF-India, international NGO, with the mission to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH)
New Delhi, India
Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) is a non-profit organisation, with an object to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts. They developed the “Vriksh” timber legality assessment and verification standard.
Network For Certification & Conservation Of Forests – NCCF
EPCH House, Pocket 6&7
Local Shopping Complex
Vasant Kunj
New Delhi, India
Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests is a not for profit Society. It is an institutional mechanism to ensure collaborative & streamlined efforts to develop national standard for Forest Certification in India.
Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) is a non-profit organization, by key forest based stakeholders with an objective to establish a country specific forest certification scheme through extensive consultative process with the stakeholders.


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