Pandemic pandemonium in the tropical timber sector – ITTO



Tropical timber producers are facing a crisis due to measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. Some governments have instituted total lockdowns or restricted movement while others have less stringent approaches. A survey undertaken by ITTO Market Information Service (MIS) correspondents with relevant stakeholders shows that the virus and responses to it are having devastating impacts in the tropical timber sector.



Impact of pandemic—early results of a survey



ITTO MIS correspondents in Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam writing for the bimonthly Tropical Timber Market Report were asked in April to use their networks to seek answers to questions on the impacts of the pandemic. Highlights from the responses received are provided below, with the full results available in the ITTO MIS Tropical Timber Market Report 24(7) published on 16 April 2020. The same questions have been distributed to members of the ITTO Trade Advisory Group (TAG), and their responses will be compiled and made available on the ITTO website and in the Tropical Timber Market Report in May.






There is no clear picture on how the pandemic is affecting timber companies in Africa. Almost all countries are reporting cases of COVID-19 and, as the number of infections grows, more countries are finding that the virus has spread beyond the main cities.



Of the 47 African member countries of the World Health Organization, almost 60% have reported cases in multiple locations, compared with 21% at the beginning of April.



Considerable variation in responses to the pandemic in African countries makes analysis difficult. What is certain is that jobs are being lost, and African economies will see a drastic drop in export earnings from the timber sector in coming months.



Correspondents report that sawmills in Cameroon are unable to operate. There is a lockdown in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although some timber companies there have authority to continue operations. A similar situation prevails in the Congo, where some companies are still in production. Correspondents report that timber shipments are continuing from Equatorial Guinea, despite a “national state of alarm” declared there.



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