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 Master 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.
In Myanmar, the State owns all lands.The responsibility for management of forest resources rests with the Forest Department (FD), a division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC).
Myanmar forests are managed following a 30-year Master Plan for the period from 2001 to 2031, 10-year forest district management plans and annual operational plans.
Proposed amendments to the Forest Law have resulted in the “2017 Forest Bill” and the new forest law was enacted in September 2018. The new law highlights non-state ownership of teak, community forestry rights, anti-corruption and bribery, and provides for tougher penalties for offences and penalties.
The basic management principle for forests in Myanmar is known as 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.
By law, only the state-owned forest enterprise (Myanmar Timber Enterprise, MTE) has the right to extract timber.
Myanmar is sub-divided into what are called Timber Extracting Agencies, which often overlap the administrative boundaries of regions or districts. The MTE is a commercial enterprise under MONREC. The private sector was also involved in wood processing and processed exports. Previously subcontractors were permitted to extract timber in areas that were under control of non-state armed groups. This was discontinued by MONREC Notification Letter No.1125/2015 issued in June 2015.
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.
Section 21(c) of the Myanmar Forest Law 1992 stipulates the need to pay the royalties, security deposits and advances due for forest produce.
Royalty rates vary with teak and hardwood species groups. For teak species the current royalty fee is around US$20 (30,000MKK) for one round log ton. There are 5 further species groups, and a range of forest products with various fees.
Most royalty payments are made to the Forest Department and deposited in state budgets. For some species groups royalties are made directly to State/Regional Government.
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.
As noted above only MTE has the right to extract timber.
IMPORTANT: The Myanmar SFM Standards currently (2019) under development and finalization are not mandatory legal requirements.
Nevertheless, the SFM Standards will be those submitted for PEFC endorsement (see Third Party Certification below). Myanmar’s SFM Standards for Natural and Plantation Forests contain a principle, criterion, indicators and verifiers to define and protect ‘long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources’.
In 2017 Myanmar implemented a forest activity “Community Monitoring and Reporting System”.
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 applied 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).
The key documents for trade and transport of logs are listed in the section below.
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
According to the 2016 MONREC Letter to the Union Government Forest 4/1/04/D1/1873/2016 exports can only be carried out through three designated ports in Yangon (the ‘Old Port’, the. Asian World Container Port (AWCP), and the Myanmar International Terminal Thilwa (MITT).
In 2017 open tenders for log sale to private companies were introduced, along with a computerized system of log registration.
As part of Myanmar’s preparation and commitment towards the VPA FLEGT, MONREC developed the Myanmar Timber Chain of Custody Process Documents and Actors in 2017. The “CoC Dossier”, as it is more commonly known, was ensorsed by the FLEGT Interim Task Force, and lists the key processes and associated documents in producing legal timber from state managed natural forests. It aims to assist operators who trade Myanmar timber products that timber has been legally sourced and products legally produced and exported.
The full Dossier with examples of key documents is publicly available on the Myanmar Forest Department website.
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
2016-2026: 10-year logging moratorium in Bago Yoma region
2018: Reduced harvest prescribed by FD (39% of AAC for teak - 19,210 trees. 27% of AAC for hardwoods - 592,330 trees).
2017: Ban on exporting confiscated Timber; Ban on exporting timber from conversion & conflict area; Chain saw import restrictions.
2014: Log Export Ban starting from 1st April 2014. Note: logs, posts and poles from private plantations are allowed for export effectively from June 2019.
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.
- Dalbergia (except if already listed under CITES Appendix I) was added under the CITES Appendix II on 7th November, 2016. It was effective from 4th January 2017.
National action on timber legality
Myanmar joined the FLEGT process programme in 2014, and officially entered the preparation stage in the beginning of 2015. A FLEGT Interim Task Force (ITF) has been set up and is currently transitioning towards a multi- stakeholder group (MSG).
In 2011, Myanmar joined the UN-REDD Programme (United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries). Myanmar has since (2015) submitted related plans at the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP12).
Third party certification
Currently, Myanmar does not have any internationally recognised forest certification standard, such as through the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
However, in collaboration with PEFC, MFCC is finalising the Myanmar Forest Certification Scheme that aims to deliver a PEFC endorsed Myanmar Standard.
As of 30th May 2019 PEFC announced Myanmar Forest Certification Committee as a member of PEFC.
To support third party access and transparency, in 2018 MTE gave official permission for registered 3rd Party Certification Bodies and direct buyers to access forest extraction areas.
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 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (MEITI), Forestry Sector, EITI Report (2019)
- Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (website)
- Myanmar Forest Department, 2014
- Myanmar’s logging ban a major step towards forest sector reform by Environmental Investigation Agency, 05 August 2016
- Myanmar Timber Chain of Custody Process Documents and Actors (2017)
- NEPCon (2013) Myanmar forest sector legality analysis
No. 288/290, Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Dagon Township,
Insein Township, 11011
Source: Transparancy International