According to the FAO (2015) Myanmar has around 29.0 million hectares of forested land, which constitutes to 44.2% of the total land area. Around 28.1 million hectares are primary or otherwise naturally regenerated forest and around 944 thousand hectares are planted forest. The full 100% of the forest area is owned by the state, but certain management rights can be granted to communities or private companies. However, there are some forest areas (about 41 000 ha) that are not under “state ownership”, but are brought under community forests owned by the local people with long-term lease permission of the government.
The annual rate of deforestation in Myanmar was 1.2% for the period 1990-2015 (FAO, 2015) with rapid expansion of commercial agriculture, alongside legal and illegal logging, and the clearance of forest areas for infrastructural projects being the main drivers (Forest Trends, 2015).
The country has labelled approximately 7% of its land area (about 4.5 million hectares) under the Protected Areas System Working Circle, which covers National Parks and Sanctuaries. According to the National Forest Action Plan the country aims to have 10% of the total land area under protected areas in 2030 (FAO, 2015).
Because of Myanmar’s wide geographical spread, its forests are very varied. The forests types are mixed deciduous forest (38% of the total forest area); hill evergreen forest (25%); evergreen forest (16%); dry forest (10%); deciduous dipterocarp forest (5%) and tidal, beach, dune and swamp forest (4%). Myanmar is well known for its natural Teak (Tectona grandis) forests, which are classified among the mixed deciduous forests. Of the world’s 19 million hectares of natural Teak forests, more than 16 million are found in Myanmar (ITTO, 2011).
Production and export
According to ITTO (2017) the industry of Myanmar produced in 2015 about 4.4 million m3 of logs. Total export value of primary timber products accounted for about 400 million US dollars in 2015.
The exports of Myanmar's timber industry are dominated by the valuable Burmese teak (Tectona grandis), although many other species are harvested both the country's natural forests and forest plantations. These species include Pyinkado (Xylia dolabriformis, X. kerri), Padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus), Htauk kyant (Terminalia tomentosa), Rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) and Gmelina (Gmelina arborea). The latter two species are principal plantation species.
While much of the timber is harvested and transported by private Myanmar companies, in cooperation with the state‐owned Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), all timber must be shipped out through designated Yangon timber ports with MTE markings. The great majority of the timber exports are going to other Asian countries, in particular China and India, as can be observed from the graph below.
Sources of information
- FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
- Fordaq - timber trade network
- Forest Trends (2015) Commercial Agriculture Expansion in Myanmar: Links to Deforestation, Conversion Timber, and Land Conflicts
- ITC (International Trade Centre) calculations based on UN Comtrade statistics
- ITTO (2011) Status of tropical forest management 2011 – Myanmar
- ITTO (2015) Biennial review and assessment of the world timber situation 2013-2014.
- NEPCon forestry risk profile - Myanmar
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Myanmar with container liner service.
Myanmar’s forests are managed with the management system of the Myanmar Selection System (MSS). Under the MSS, forest lands are organised into felling series, each of which is divided into 30 blocks of approximately equal yield capacity. One block per year is harvested and the whole felling series is worked in the course of a 30-year felling cycle. In each block due for harvest, marketable trees with diameter at breast height (DBH) at or above the fixed exploitable limits (which vary depending on forest type) are selected and cut. The extracted volume must be within the bounds of the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC), which is determined for each felling series based on the principle of sustained yield management.
All forest land is owned by the state and the extraction rights are given directly and exclusively to Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), who is also controlling timber exports. MTE has sub-divided the entire country in what is called Timber Extracting Agencies, which often overlaps the administrative boundaries of regions or districts. The MTE is part of the Forestry Department (FD) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). Commercial enterprises and subcontractors are also involved in wood processing and processed exports, which is largely coordinated by the MTE. Community forestry has developed slowly in Myanmar. To date no commercial extraction by communities has been possible (EFI, 2011). The MTE may grant some management rights of forest land to a private company, and this contractor needs to obtain harvesting rights through a timber extraction contract that covers the relevant area of extraction. For districts directly under MTE management harvesting rights are obtained through an Extraction Permit.
The Forest Department needs to approve a 10 year Forest Management Plan together with records of Hammer mark registration. The forest management plan is based on the extrapolation of annual inventory data, from which annual management plans are prepared. Together with an Extraction Permit, an Operational Extraction Permit is supplied by the MTE before entering the forest for harvesting combined with Boundary Maps, a Harvesting monitoring report and Felling and Log registers.
In terms of traceability each extraction agency has been allocated a specific sign which is stamped on all logs from that agency (area). All logs should be marked with the specific hammer-mark of the extraction agency, enabling traceability to the level of extraction agency. The hammer marks are ap plied to the stem of trees to be felled as well as to the end of logs at various points for the transport of logs from the forest to processing or export from the port in Yangon.
The physical flow of timber from the forest to export markets or domestic industry is limited to official MTE depots. The strictest forms of control are exerted for teak logs, which, theoretically, shall all be transported to MTE log depots in Yangon for re-distribution. This excludes low grade teak logs which can be sold locally. In terms of legality it is key that the Royalty Mark is present on the log, since this signifies that all applicable royalties have been paid (NEPCon, 2013).
For the trade and transport of logs are the following documents needed: Trucking slips, Deport registers, a Removal pass and Specification/measurement/packing lists.
The Myanmar Timber Merchants Association compiled a compilation of export documentation to assure that the buyer of timber products from Myanmar that the exporter has complied with the legal and procedural requirement. This list includes:
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Exporter-Importer Registration
- Certificate of Membership of the UMFCCI
- Myanmar Forest Products Merchants Federation Membership Certificate
- Certificate for Legality of Forest Products
- Export Licence
- Export Declaration
- Bill of Lading
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 (Global Forest Registry).
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
Since August 2016 the Government of Myanmar has agreed a temporary national logging ban and a 10-year logging ban in the Pegu Yoma region to give its beleaguered forests breathing space from years of unchecked exploitation. The national logging ban will run until the end of March 2017, in effect closing the forests for one complete logging season. All exports of round logs from the country have been banned since 1 April 2014. For the duration of the new national ban, Myanmar will rely on stockpiled timber to supply its domestic wood processing industry and the international market; current stockpiles are sufficient to meet current demand for up to three years.
Cites and protected species
There are some tree species listed on CITES Appendix II from Myanmar:
- Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.
- Serpentine wood (Rauvolfia serpentine). The CITES listing applies to all parts and derivatives except: seeds and pollen; and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.
National action on timber legality
The government of Myanmar expressed its interest in negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the EU. The joint FLEGT VPA preparatory phase towards negotiations is underway (Myanmar Forest Department, 2014).
Third party certification
Myanmar currently has no certified forests.
Sources of information
- CITES database
- EFI (2011) Baseline study 4, Myanmar: Overview of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade
- Forest Trends (2012) Forest Certification in Myanmar
- Global Forest Registry
- Myanmar Forest Department, 2014
- Myanmar’s logging ban a major step towards forest sector reform by Environmental Investigation Agency, 05 August 2016
- NEPCon (2013) Myanmar forest sector legality analysis
Source: Transparancy International