Gateway to international timbertrade


Forest resources

According to the FAO (2015), about half (50.5%) of Ecuador’s territory is forested, with an estimated 12.55 million hectares of forest cover from a total land area of 24.8 million hectares. Almost the full extent (99.4%) of the 12.5 million hectares is primary forest or naturally regenerated forest. Only 55,000 hectares (0.4%) is planted forest and is designated for production. Ecuador is considered one of the world’s most diverse countries, with the Amazonian region in particular containing large tracts of intact natural forest of global conservation significance. The majority of forests - approximately 9.8 million hectares - is in the Amazon region (80%). There are three major forest types in Ecuador (ITTO, 2011):

  1. Amazon rainforest, comprising about 62% of the forest estate;
  2. Montane (sierra) forests of various types in the Andes (on the western and eastern slopes, at lower and upper levels, and towards the Andean high peaks),  comprising about 21% of the forest estate;
  3. Tropical rainforest in the coastal plains of the Pacific region, comprising of about 17% of the forests.

Mangrove forests were once widespread, but now cover only about 158,000 hectares.

Over 5 million hectares of forest is publicly owned and a relatively small part is (762,000 hectares; FAO, 2015) in private ownership or on communal territories of inidgenous peoples. Public ownership in case of Ecuador contains state production forests and SNAP (Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas) / partrimonio forestal del estado. (ITTO, 2011), whil in the protection forest (bosques protectores), which is protection category of private properties, production is allowed if that is regulated in its forest management plan. The forest ownership is unknown for over 7 million hectares, according to FAO. In practice, most of Ecuador’s forests are owned by local communities and Indigenous groups (ancestral Indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorian), although the majority are not subject to official land titles. There is a great deal of overlap between the areas in the SNAP and private and Indigenous lands. (ITTO, 2011). According to local researchers Palacios and Freire (2010), indigenous groups and settlers own about 60% of the remaining forest area and 40% is within protected areas (PA’s).

In order to facilitate forest administration and use (both of State and private forests), the following classification has been established:

  1. Permanent state production forests,
  2. Permanent private production;
  3. Protective forests;
  4. Special areas including areas for research.

Ecuador has not defined a Permanent Forest Estate (PFE), but there is a clear distinction between forests for (potential) production and forest for protection, and the latter is clearly delimited. The Government of Ecuador (2009) estimated the total area that is potentially used as production forest at 4.51 million hectares (including a small portion of planted forest), and the total area of protected forests at 6.55 million hectares. However, ITTO states that the production forest area that can be considered as permanent forest estate is only about 2 million hectares and this includes harvested areas in state forests (patrimonio forestal del estado). Protection forests are classified in the national system of protected areas (Sistema Nacional de Áreas protegidas – SNAP). (ITTO, 2011).

The forest loss is quite high with 0.6% per year over the last 25 years (FAO, 2015). Forest conversion to agriculture is the major driver of deforestation, followed by regional drivers including: agro-industry (oil palm), logging, mining and infrastructure development. Several studies carried out in the Ecuadorian forestry sector point out that despite the efforts made by the country to improve forest management activities, there are still weaknesses, which has caused that there is still illegal wood that is mobilized and marketed in the Ecuadorian territory.

Development of commercial plantations is a central component of Ecuador forest policy. The implementation of the 2012 National Afforestation and Reforestation Plan (PNFR) is now underway throughout continental Ecuador, for example by financial incentives, given to private owners who wish to reforest their property for commercial purposes. It aims to increase the total area of forestry plantations during a 20-year period by one million hectares, covering commercial as well as social and conservation objectives. (Oliver, 2013).

Production and export

According to ITTO (2017) the Ecuadorian industry produced in 2015 about 2.9 million m3 of logs of which only 6% was exported. According to Oliver (2013), earlier figures show that two third of the total production was derived from plantations.

The total export value of  logs and primary timber products was 242.9 million US dollars in 2015. In 2012, panel products were the leading exported timber commodity, accounting for 26% of the export value, followed by sawnwood (26%), paper (20%), plywood and veneer (13%), logs (7%), and chips (3%). Ecuadorian exports of higher value-added products are still small and consist mainly of furniture and mouldings.

In Ecuador, the demand for native timber from the country’s Amazon forests is mainly domestic, rather than export based. As can be observed from the graph below Ecuador’s timber is mainly exported to the neighbouring countries Peru and Colombia, and further to the USA, China and India.

About 120 timber species are used in the domestic market. Balsa is a native species to Ecuador but due to rapid growth rates and strong international demand is now widely grown in plantations in Ecuador. Ecuador produces over 90% of the world’s supply of Balsa (Ochroma lagopus), which is exported as kiln dried sawn and planed blocks, veneers and laminates. Other major harvested & traded species are (TRAFFIC / FLEGT Briefing document):

  • Anime - Protium spp
  • Pulgande - Dacryodes spp.
  • Shimbillo - Inga spp
  • Guarumo macho – Pourouma chocoana
  • Kapok - Ceiba pentandra
  • Guachapele / Cadeno – Pseudosamanea guahcapele
  • Ipe - Tabebuia spp.
  • Yellow Ipe – Tabebuia chrysantha
  • Quina – Myroxylon peruiferum
  • Southern Blue Gum – Eucalyptus globulus
  • Laurel - Cordia alliodora
  • Sande / Huina - Brosimum utile
  • Sangre de Gallina – Otoba glycycarpa
  • Chuncho – Cedrelinga catenaeformis
  • Romerillo / Azucena – Prumnopitys spp.
  • Copal – Tratinnickia glaziovii

According to the Ministry of Environment, about two-thirds of harvested wood in the country is destined for the commercial wood processing sector. The dominant consumers of wood fibre in the country (in declining order of importance) are plywood and particleboard manufacturers, Balsa processors, and producers of chips and pallets. Unlike other countries in the region, there is little domestic paper manufacturing capacity in Ecuador (Oliver, 2013).

The timber industry is characterized by a high number of small timber extractors and wood-processing units, with low capital input and by poor working conditions. It is estimated that there are more than 500 units of active extractors and timber companies in Ecuador. Chainsaw milling is the main mean of production for sawn timber. Unfortunately, it yields less than 50% of the standing trunks; more efficient technologies that improve quality and the cutting process - such as guide frames or band saws - are not widely used (ETFRN news 2010).

Ecuador has at least 7 ports, only the one in Guayaquil is a container terminal.

Legality framework

Forest governance

As of April 2018 a new Environmental Organic Code (COA) started to be applied in Ecuador. This policy instrument was approved in April 2017 by the National Congress. This COA replaces the former forest law, the environmental code and all the decrees declared by national authorities. The new COA addresses issues such as climate change, protected areas, wildlife, forest heritage, environmental quality, waste management, environmental incentives, coastal marine zone, mangroves, access to genetic resources, biosecurity, biocommerce, among others. Currently, the roles related to the management of forest resources are clearer, giving total control of natural forest ecosystems to the Ministry of Environment and forest plantations to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Legal rights to harvest

Responsibility for industrial plantations was assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería), and sub secretary of forest production. There is no coordinated approach to natural forest management in Ecuador; many potential management techniques have not yet been put into practice. Before 1980, several licensed logging concessions operated in defined areas with specified annual yields. Concession management was abandoned in the early 1980s. Ecuador now uses a system of short-term logging licenses which, in addition to its impact on the quality and efficiency of logging operations, has encouraged foresters to consider other ways of ensuring future long-term supplies of timber, particularly through the development of forest plantations and agroforestry. (ITTO, 2011).

Taxes and fees

While the tax system and other payments is a complex issue in Ecuador, it has to do with official and sometimes non-official taxes, customs, social security, payments to local governments (garbage, energy, water, etc.). There is an updated document available from the Ministry of foreign trade, which gives a general view of the tax systems but also the incentives for investors in Ecuador.

Timber harvesting activities

Forest legislation for native forest establishes that prior to the issuance of the license of forest exploitation (document that authorizes cutting of trees), it is necessary to prepare a plan and get approval. The Ministry of Environment is in charge of the control and authorization for any natural forest exploitation. In the case of plantations, there is a simplified process to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. Both ministries have local positions to control the transport of timber. In case the extraction of wood is carried out without making use of heavy machinery, the activities fall under the Program of Simplified Forest Management (PAFSI). Extraction with heavy machinery falls under the Sustainable Forest Management Program (PAFSU). When it comes to wood from pioneering formations and agroforestry systems, the use and transport is carried out based on a harvest plan (PC). Also, in case of land use change, an Integral Management Plan is required (PMI), which is the instrument for zoning of land use on the farm.

Forest harvesting in governmental production forests requires a forest inventory, the preparation of a forest management plan, the physical demarcation of concession limits, social payments and payments for silvicultural treatments. Before the timber producer can obtain the "Licencia de Aprovechamiento Forestal” (Harvesting license) and the "Guía de Circulación de Madera” (transport license), it has to comply with certain requirements, that have a legal basis established by the Ministry of Environment.

Programa de Corta (Cutting license)

The Ministry of Environment is the national forest authority that has to authorize the harvest of cultivated forest trees (forest plantations), through a Harvesting License, based on an approved cutting license. For the cutting license, the information needs to include the following:

  • location of the harvest area and a copy of documents proving ownership
  • standing volume of timber to be harvested, per species (forest inventory)
  • document, signed by the owner, taking responsibility for implementation of the cutting license
  • a sketch of the location of the property

Approval of the cutting license and obtaining a harvesting license

With the information of the cutting license, the concessionaire / forest manager has to go to the Ministry of Environment and request inspection for approval. The approval has to be given out by a forestry official within 15 days after application. Once the cutting license has been approved, the harvesting license has to be requested from the Ministry of Environment. The request has to be accompanied by the information about the timber volumes to be harvested. The harvesting license is valid for one year. The forestry official will verify if the information of the tree harvesting register coincides with the approved cutting license. Once the harvesting license is issued, the owner can harvest the wood. In case the trees are not extracted within a year, an extension of the harvesting license can be requested once, with a validity of 9 months. Cutting licenses and harvesting licenses shall receive a code and be registered in the “registro del libro forestal’ and the administrational information and control system SAF, at the provincial directorate of the ministry of Environment. For thinning other requirements apply. Pruning can be done without a harvesting license, but in case the pruned products are going to be sold, a transport license is needed.

Third parties' rights

The COA recognizes the right of free, prior and informed consent with regard to plans and programs for prospecting, exploitation and marketing of non-renewable resources that are found on communal lands, communities, peoples and indigenous nationalities that may affect them environmentally or culturally; participate in the benefits that those projects report and receive compensation for the social, cultural and environmental damage caused to them

Trade and transport

Guías de circulación (transport license)

Transport licenses are issued electronically. The competent official will give an electronic key to the beneficiary, to issue the transport license, who will be responsible for misuse. The number of transport licenses corresponds with the repartition of the total volume over the carrying capacity of vehicles in which the timber will be transported. The transport licenses are valid for the estimated time of transport (72 hours max).

Forest control has been improved since the use of a new online system - Sistema de Administración Forestal (SAF - Forestry Administration System), launched in 2009. This is part of the SUIA (Sistema Unico de Informacion Ambiental). It includes a computerized permit system, for which registration and login are required.

Export license and phytosanitary certificate

The exporter has to ask for an export license, called DAE (Declaración Aduanera de Exportación - Customs Declaration for Exportation), at the Ecuapass portal of Ecuadorian customs and fill out the forms. After approval of the Province director of the Ministry of Environment, the user will receive a notification through the portal. Besides this export license, a phytosanitary certificate has to be requested. After the request has been made, an inspection is carried out by Agrocalidad. Documents such as management plan and other documents related to the production of timber or wood products must be arranged by the exporter, otherwise the products cannot be transported from the production unit. 

The government of Ecuador implemented a platform for the administration of forest products in order to make it virtual-paperless process.

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.


Certificados de Registro Ambiental
Ministry of Environment – province level
Registration of each operation that might have an impact on the environment. (also forestry operations such as harvesting). This is generated through the online Sistema Único de Información Ambiental (SUIA)
Informe técnico de inspección preliminar
Forestry official
Technical inspection report, carried out by a forestry official. This is necessary to get approval by the Ministry of Environment on other documents.
Plan de Manejo Integral (PMI) + PAFSU
Ministry of Environment
An integrated management plan and Programas de Aprovechamiento Forestal Sustentable (PAFSU) are required, in natural forests, and in case harvesting is done mechanically.
Programas de Aprovechamiento Forestal Simplificado – PAFSI
Simplified forest management plans for harvesting in natural forests, involving non-mechanised extraction.
PMI + Programa de Corta
Integrated Management plan + Cutting license are required in case of conversion (changing land use type).
Programa de Corta
Cutting license. In case of pioneer vegetation, relict trees, forest plantations, planted trees and natural regeneration in cultivated forest, a cutting regime / cutting program must be elaborated.
Certificado de cumplimiento de obligaciones
Certificate of fulfilment of obligations
Licencia de Aprovechamiento Forestal
Harvesting license. After the required plans and programs (described above) have been approved, a harvesting license is given out.
Formulario Especial (FE)
This special form is required to get authorization for the harvest of Balsa and Pigüe, when the timber is extracted as roundwood ( troza o rolliza). Never sawn timber, and with a maximum volume of 12 m3 per form.
Licencia de Aprovechamiento Forestal Especial
Special harvesting license, required in case the round wood is meant to be sawn or used in the construction of public works.
Guía de Circulacion - Transport License
Transport licenses are issued supported by the respective licenses of use of an approved program or plan. The transport of wood from the forest to the final destination (sawmills, centers of storage, industry), should be done covered in a transport license, and / or invoice.

Processing and Trade

Certificado de exportación
Quarterly export license

Bans and quota

Export of round wood has been banned since 2005, except in limited quantities for scientific and experimental purposes. According to article 47 of the Forest Law (2002), the export of semi-finished forest products shall be authorized by the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Trade, Industrialization, Fisheries and Competitiveness ‘only when the internal/domestic needs and minimum levels of industrialization are found satisfied’.

Harvesting of Balsa and Pigüe have a quotum (see also Formulario Especial).

Natural forest harvesting of mahogany / caoba (Swietenia macrophylla) and Spanish cedar / cedro (Cedrela spp.) has been banned at the national level according to this Ministerial document

Cites and protected species

The Ministry of Environment is the CITES authority in Ecuador.

CITES Appendix II-listed species for Ecuador:

  • Brazilian rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora). Aniba rosaeodora is one of the commercially important sources of rosewood oil, which has led largely to its over-exploitation. Overharvesting has led to the listing of Aniba rosaeodora species in CITES. The CITES listing for Aniba rosaeodora applies to logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, plywood and essential oil (excluding finished products packaged and ready for retail trade).  Finished products containing such extracts as ingredients, including fragrances, are not considered to be covered by CITES.
  • Big-leaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)

Spanish Cedar / Cedro (Cedrela spp.) is listed on CITES Appendix III.

National action on timber legality

Currently, Ecuador is listed in the initial progress category, as ‘preparing to negotiate’ for a VPA. A traceability system is being designed.

Third party certification

The only certified forest operations in Ecuador are covered by 5 FSC Forest management certificates, covering a  total certified area of 58,683 ha (FSC Facts & Figures, February 2019).


Ministerio del Ambiente (MAE)
Sub-secretaria del Patrimonio Nacional Direccion forestal (forest service)
Calle Madrid 1159 y Andalucía
Código Postal: 170517
Quito, Ecuador
Ministry of Environment and its Forest Service administers forests and protected areas, enforces the Forest Law and international treaties, implements conservation projects and approves environmental assessments.
SNAP - Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas
Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganaderia, aquacultura y pesca (MAGAP)
Ministry of agriculture, cattle ranching, aquaculture and fisheries
Unidad para el Desarrollo Forestal del Ecuador
Unit for Forestry Promotion and Development of Ecuador, under MAGAP.
PROFORESTAL was created in 2008, with the goal to execute the National Afforestation and Reforestation Plan (PNFR).
National Secretariat for Planning and Development
Evaluación Nacional Forestal del Ecuador (ENF)
Develops a national inventory and monitoring system, to be used to support management decisions and policies
Vigilancia Verde
A forest-control entity, with the overall task of supervising the flow of forest products from the forest tot the marketplace.
Vigilancia Verde es un cuerpo de control forestal privado/público liderado por el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente con la participación de cinco organizaciones.
Fundación Natura, CARE Ecuador, Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio, Fundación Maquipucuna, COMAFORS
Oficina regional América del Sur
Calle QuiteÑo Libre E15-12 y La Cumbre,
Sector Bellavista
Quito, Ecuador
Collaboration between WWF and IUCN. Wildlife trade monitoring network, is the leading NGO working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
WWF Ecuador
Fundacion Natura
AIMA Asociación Ecuatoriana de Industriales de Madera
Ecuadorian Wood Industry Association
ASOTECA Asociación Ecuatoriana de Productores de Teca y Maderas Tropicales
Ecuadorian Association of Teak and tropical timber producers
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) National Office - Ecuador
Mallorca N24-275 and A Coruña, Edif. FEPP, Planta Baja,
Quito, Ecuador
Tel: +593-2-2520-408
(formerly known as CEFOVE)


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