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.