Gateway to international timbertrade

Liberia

Forest resources

According to the FAO ( 2015) Liberia has around 4.2 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 43.4% of the total land area. Around 4.2 million hectares are primary or otherwise naturally regenerated forest, and around 8 thousand hectares are planted forest. Liberian forests represent over half of the remaining rainforests in West Africa, and they are characterized by moist evergreen forests and semi-deciduous forests cover (predominantly in north Liberia).

According to FAO (2015) the current deforestation rate is set at 30 000 ha / year, with conversion for agriculture and mining being the main drivers. However, uncontrolled logging is a significant cause of forest degradation.

All forest resources are owned by the state, except forest resources located in communal forests and forest resources that have been developed on private or deeded lands through artificial regeneration. Meanwhile all forests are public pending the resolution of the land ownership issue. The state allocates land use rights mainly to commercial entrepreneurs, communities, or to itself in case of protected areas. Liberia has two existing protected forest areas, the Sapo National Park and East Nimba Nature Reserve.

Production and export

According to ITTO (2015) the Liberian industry produced about about 518 thousand m3 of logs in 2014. The majority of the timber production is used in the domestic market. The civil war (1989 – 2003) destroyed the forestry industry and rural infrastructure, and consequently round logs currently account for the bulk of the export volume. The export value of primary timber products was around 34.2 million US dollars in 2014.

Common commercially harvested timber species include Azobé (Lophira alata), Niangon (Heritiera utilis), Bossé (Guarea cedrata), Iroko (Milicia excelsa), Ayous (Triplochiton scleroxylon) and Dabema (Piptadeniastrum africanum). The vast majority of the wood exports are going to China, with the remainder going to mainly Asian and European countries.

Timber is usually exported via the main ports  of the country: The Freeport of Monrovia, Port of Buchanan, Port of Greenville, and Cape Palmas also commonly known as Harper port. Especially the Port of Harper and Port of Greenville are known as a main outlet for the timber industry.

Legality framework

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) is the authority responsible for the management and conservation of Liberia’s forest resources, which includes management of the forest policy, the forest legislative framework and the enforcement of forest laws. The National Forestry Reform Law provides for the issuance of five types of licenses by the FDA to carry out activities over forested land, as follows:

  • Forest Management Contracts (FMC): license for forest exploitation issued land areas over land between 50.000 and 400.000 hectares that does not include private land, generally for a period of 25 years;
  • Timber Sales Contracts (TSC): license issued over a land area not more than 5000 hectares that does not include private land, for a period of 3 years.
  • Forest Use Permits (FUP): a license issued for small scale forest exploitation, research, NTFP activities or other uses on an area less than 1000 hectares;
  • Community Forest Management Agreements (CFMA): license issued to communities for the purpose of community based forest management, smaller than 50.000 hectares; However, the Community Rights Law allows for CFMAs to be more than 50.000 hectares. In that case the contracting of a logging company must follow a public bidding process and must be signed by the President, as is the case for FMCs.
  • Private Use Permits (PUP): a license issued to private land owners (individual, group, community) to extract wood. There is no specific regulation for handling PUPs. These permits allow land owners to enter into contracts directly with logging companies, although government approval is needed. It is estimated that PUPs covered approximately 30 per cent of Liberia’s forests between 2011 and 2012. Because of massive mismanagement of the PUPs posing a threat to the efficient, effective, and sustainable management of the country’s forests, a moratorium was set out on the issuance of PUPs for activities involving or related to the felling or export of logs or under any PUPs granted, authorized or approved by the Forestry Development Authority.

Contract holders need to comply with all major pre-qualification requirements in order to obtain the exploitation contract, including tax clearance, an annual business registration certificate, and a prequalification certificate. FMCs and TSCs can be obtained via tender, whereas a PUP is awarded upon written permission of the land owner. After all conditions are met the contract to use or harvest forest resources is signed between the contract holder and the FDA.

The contract holder must uniquely number and record each tree on the stock survey and block map. The block map and stock survey are verified by the Legality Verification Department of the FDA, which is currently operated by SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance SA). Contract holders are only allowed to fell trees when they are in the possession of a valid Annual Harvesting Certificate. This certificate can only be obtained after the contract holder has, among others, an approved annual operations plan, and, for FMCs, an approved management plan covering the area to be harvested. The annual operations plan shall specify the volume and species of the annual coupe, or the annual block of harvest in case of FMCs.

Once the annual harvesting certificate has been issued, the contract holder is allocated barcoded log tags and is permitted to commence harvesting at the locations indicated on the block map. The log tags are affixed to the butt end of the log and another to the stump. Details of the harvested tree are recorded on the felled tree data form, and include species, dimensions and log ID. Tree data forms are completed when trees are felled, prior to cutting into initial long logs. These are recorded on a log data form. Once trees have been felled, labelled, measured and felled tree data forms have been filled in at the stump, the operator can extract tree to log landing. Also after cross-cutting the log receives an ID tag, so that all logs are traceable back to the stump or location where it was growing.

For transport a waybill form is completed, including barcode, species and dimensions, as well as official barcoded stickers and references to the bar-coded tag numbers of the wood products of the load. These waybills are checked by the LVD.

Facilities mechanically processing the wood need to be in the possession of an annual sawmill permit. The operator of the sawmill receiving the logs keeps records of all wood raw materials entering the site (Sawmill log input form), as well as records of stock, processing and exit of processed products (Sawmill output form). Processed products are labelled with official barcoded PVC labels. The details of inputs and outputs of the processing facility are uploaded in the COCIS (Chain of Custody Information System) of the LVD. This system is also used for the recording of exports of logs, timber and other wood products. Exporters of these products shall be in the possession of an annual export registration. The exported products shall be accompanied by an Export shipment specification log, a Proof of payment of export fees, and for sawn timber an Export specification-sawn timber.

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.

Harvesting

Forest contract (FMC / TSC / PUP)
Forestry Development Authority (FDA)
Harvesting license signed between the forest authorities and the contract holder.
Business registration certificate
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI)
Annual certificate confirming legal registration as commercial business in the country.
Tax clearance certificate
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI)
Certificate confirming payment of relevant taxes and fees. Duration of the certificate depends on the type of business.
Annual Harvesting Certificate
Forestry Development Authority (FDA)
Annual certificate allowing the contract holder to fell trees based on, among others, an approved annual operations plan and for FMCs an approved management plan.
Log data form
Record of harvested logs to be conveyed from the forest to the log yard. A format is obtained from the forest authorities. This document needs to be completed by the forest company and is verified by the forest authorities.
Waybill
Transport document for logs from the forest to a processing facility. A format is obtained from the forest authorities. This document needs to be completed by the forest company and shall correspond with the log data form. The waybill is verified by the forest authorities.

Trade and export

Sawmill permit
Forestry Development Authority (FDA)
Annual operator's permit which is required for all mechanized wood processing facilities in Liberia.
Business registration certificate
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI)
Annual certificate confirming legal registration as commercial business in the country.
Tax clearance certificate
Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI)
Certificate confirming payment of relevant taxes and fees. Duration of the certificate depends on the type of business.
Waybill
Transport document of wood products. A format is obtained from the forest authorities. This document needs to be completed by the company and is verified by the forest authorities.
Export registration
Forestry Development Authority (FDA)
Annual registration of an exporter of wood products.
Export shipment specification log
Specification of the export shipment in a format obtained from the forest authorities, which needs to be completed by the company and which will be checked at the point of export.
Export specification-sawn timber
Export specification for sawn timber in a format obtained from the forest authorities, which needs to be completed by the company and which will be checked at the point of export.
Proof of payment of export fees
Forestry Development Authority (FDA)
Proof of payment of export fees, which will be checked at the point of export.

Bans and quota

There are no export bans or quota in place.

Cites and protected spieces

There are no CITES listed tree species for Liberia.

National action on timber legality

During Liberia’s prolonged civil war, timber revenues were misappropriated and used to sustain the conflict. In 2003 the United Nations (UN) Security Council attempted to deal with this by imposing sanctions on all imports of timber from Liberia. Since then, Liberia has made significant efforts to reform the forest sector including completing a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework, developing a national timber traceability system (LiberFor) to track timber production and revenue payments and reforming the FDA. The UN Security Council lifted sanctions in 2006 to recognise Liberia’s progress and to open the way for Liberia to rebuild its forest sector. In order to support the forest reform process, Liberia and the EU entered into negotiations for a voluntary partnership agreement in March 2009. The Agreement was signed in July 2011, and ratified in December 2013. Since 2013, SGS was hired to further develop the CoC system and the rest of the TLAS. It ensures traceability from a standing tree to the point of export, and provides evidence to support issuing export permits for timber coming from Forest Management Contracts (FMC), Timber Sales Contracts (TSC), PUPs and CFMAs.

Third party certification

Liberia currently has no independently certified forests.

Contacts

Forestry Development Authority
Whein Town
Mount Barclay, Liberia
Tel: +231 888 000 000
The FDA is responsible for the regulation of utilization of forest and wildlife resources, the conservation and management of those resources and the coordination of related policies.
National Port Authority of Liberia
Freeport of Monrovia, Bushrod Island

P.O. Box 1849
Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: +231 2 760 6001
Tel: +231 2 760 6006
Tel: +231 7 771 8937
Managing, planning, and building all public ports in Liberia.
SGS Liberia Inc.
Old Road, Sinkor
Monrovia, Liberia
Tel: +231 7787 4352
Party responsible for the development and implementation of the national timber traceability system.
Sustainable Development Institute
Duarzon Village
Robertsfield Highway

PO Box 5678
Monrovia, Liberia
The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) is a Liberian NGO founded in 2002. SDI is working to transform and improve natural resource related decision making processes in the country. SDI focuses on resource governance, corruption, community benefits and public participation. In 2006 SDI received the Goldman Environmental Prize for outstanding environmental achievements in Africa. The organisation actively participates in the national and international discussions on forests and climate change.
Fauna & Flora International
FFI is an international NGO with various programmes in Liberia, including working to strengthen forest management in post-conflict Liberia.

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