• Republic of the Congo

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of the Republic of the Congo

Forest governance

The Ministry of Forest Economy (MEF - Ministère de l’Économie Forestière) is the institution that oversees forest management in Congo.

The new forestry code (Law 33-2020) was promulgated on 8 July 2020 and its implementing legislation is currently being drafted.

The new Law 33-20 introduces new measures: 

  • The abolition of Industrial Transformation Agreements
  • Durations for Development and Processing Agreements (CAT - Convention d’Aménagement et de Transformation)
  • Production sharing regimes
  • Simplified management plans
  • Log processing requirements
  • Forest certification requirements (legality or sustainable management)

For more information, please see the 2020 ATIBT Guide.

Legal rights to harvest

In Congo, the awarding of forest concessions - the primary logging areas - is done through a call for tenders issued by order of the Minister who oversees forests.

With the exception of special permits, logging permits can only be awarded to companies that have, among other things, a valid merchant's licence (registered with the trade register and holding a merchant's card) and a valid licence from the forestry department (Authorisation), a requirement that applies to all of the sub-region countries. These loggingpermits can be awarded to natural persons of Congolese nationality, non-governmental organisations and associations under Congolese law (Article 143 of Law 33-2020) and they grant holders the right to harvest small quantities (a few trees).

The main logging rights (Permits) required under Law 33-2020 are as follows:

  • Management and processing agreement - CAT (Convention d'aménagement et de transformation): holders are obliged to carry out the forestry works outlined in the management plan of the relevant forest management unit as well as those mentioned in the CAT itself.
  • Plantation timber valuation agreement -CVBP (Convention de valorisation des bois de plantation):holders are guaranteed to harvest a defined volume of timber as detailed in the management plan and they are obliged to regenerate the plantation. The validity of these CVBPs is based on the planted species' rotation cycles. CVBPs may be renewed beyond three rotation cycles for fast-growing species. In the latter case, the state compensates the holder for the resulting losses suffered. National standards will have to define which species are fast-growing. However, fast-growing species are generally those that are implanted in forest plantations for profitability reasons.

Industrial Processing Agreement- CTI (Convention de Transformation Industrielle): the new Law 33-2020 abolishes the existence of this harvesting permit, and provides for three years of transitional measures (last chapter of the Law). In principle, the former measures of Law 16-2000 and its texts remain in effect until July 2022, or until the implementation texts of Law 33-2020 specify measures regarding the CTIs.

Law 33-2020 introduced the production sharing regime, which consists of the distribution of the total log production between the convention holder and the State (owner of the forests) as mentioned above. This regime is negotiated no later than three years after the awarding of the convention, and ensures in return and in principle the exemption of forestry taxes.

In addition to the above-mentioned conventions, Congolese law also recognises the following logging permits:

  • Domestic Logging Permits - PED (Permis d'Exploitation Domestique), which grant their beneficiaries the exclusive right to harvest the timber resource for which it is issued over a maximum area to be determined by order of the Minister in charge of forests. This permit must include a simple management plan, and the exact volume of timber harvested annually as well as the authorised species are specified in the PED itself.
  • Plantation timber harvesting permits - PCBP (Permis de coupe des bois de plantations), which relate to the harvesting of trees from forest plantations. Unlike CVBPs, the holder is not required to draw up a simple management plan or to regenerate the plantation after harvesting.
  • Special permits - PS (Permis spéciaux), in which holders have the right to commercially harvest forest products in specified areas and quantities. These holders may also be allowed to harvest a limited number of timber species for commercial purposes in so-called remote areas of the national territory. Special permits can only be granted to Congolese individuals, NGOs and associations constituted under the relevant Congolese laws., Commercial companies are therefore not affected.

Agreement holders must prepare forest management plans (simplified - in the case of CATs whose area is below a threshold that is to be specified by order of the Minister who oversees forests) which must be approved by the MEF.

In order to be authorised to harvest, a company holding a CAT must prepare and submit an annual allowable cut authorisation request based on a full forest inventory, a set of maps, and other factors to the Departmental Directorate of Forest Economy (DDEF - Direction Départementale de l'Economie Forestière). After verification and approval of this application by the forestry authority, an annual allowable cut authorisation is granted.

Taxes and fees

The forestry taxes required under article 110 of the forestry code (Law 33-2020) are:

  • the surface area tax;
  • the felling tax;
  • the tax on non-timber forest products;
  • the deforestation tax;
  • the occupation tax;
  • the waste tax;
  • the import tax;
  • the export tax.

Forestry taxes are collected by the administration that oversees the forests, with the exception of the deforestation tax and the occupation tax, both of which are collected by the Public Treasury's collector. The apportionment basis for taxes collected for the benefit of forest stakeholders, notably the State, according to Law 33-2020, is summarised in the below table.

Forestry taxes that remain unpaid by the agreed deadline are automatically penalised by a 30% increase per quarter of lateness.The implementing legislation of Law 33-2020 and the finance laws will provide additional details on this information relating to forestry taxes.

Timber harvesting activities

After the Annual Cutting Permit has been received, timber can be felled. The harvested trees are recorded in a logbook, which includes details on the harvested logs. All harvested logs are hammered with a marking registered by the company at the district court registry department and include a company identifier (log stamp hammer) and the felling number. All blocks from the same harvested tree have the same markings, in addition to ablock number. Transport documents (waybill) accompany the logs from the forest to their destination (mill or export). The details of the logs must match what is recorded in the logbook.

For processing in sawmills, companies must hold an installation permit for the processing unit, obtained from the Ministry overseeing forests. The processing facility's capacitycannot exceed the annual harvest volume of the concession of the company to which the facility is linked. Records of incoming and outgoing timber must be kept and are regularly maintained and checked by the DDEF during inspections.

Third parties’ rights

The national Law on the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples (Law 05/2011) stipulates, among other things, that indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted on any matter affecting them and the right to benefit from revenues related to the use of their traditional lands and natural resources. Law 33-2020 of the Forestry Code introduced the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (CLIP - Consentement Libre, Informé et Préalable) in Article 5.

A Local Development Fund (FDL - Fond de Développement Local) is provided for, calculated on the basis of 200 CFA francs per m3 of timber. This fund is intended for the implementation of community projects in the villages along the river.

Trade and transport

Exporting companies must obtain an export declaration issued by the Ministry of Commerce after written authorisation from the Ministry of Forestry. When exporting, the company must attach completed specification sheets detailing the species, quality and quantity of all exported timber products.

The forest products export verification department (SCPFE - Service de contrôle des produits forestiers à l’exportation) is a government department in charge of quantitative and qualitativeinspections of exported timber and timber products. The SCPFE issues an AVE (Attestation de Vérification Export - Export Verification Certificate). The AVE certifies that the declared product data has been verified and authorises the export of the product. The AVE is forwarded to Congolese customs by the exporter and serves as a reference document for the collection of the export tax. The AVE and the product specification accompany the exported product.