Turbulent times for India’s timber trade

Forests

A 2021 update of “Wooden furniture and wooden handicrafts from India: Risk of trade in illegally harvested timber”

By Michael Richards, Sofia Tenorio Fenton, Naomi Basik Treanor and Kerstin Canby

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This report focuses on recent changes in India’s international timber trade, particularly over the period 2019-2021, and the implications (of the identified changes) for India’s supply of illegally harvested or traded timber . The document thus provides an update of the 2020 report of Forest Trends India’s wooden furniture and wooden handicrafts: risk of trade in Illegally harvested wood (Norman & Canby 2020).

The conclusions of the 2020 Forest Trends report regarding the long-term illegality risk profile of the timber trade in India remain valid. Although the level of risk of illegal timber imports from India was lower over the period 2019-2021 than in previous years, this is almost certainly due to COVID, and therefore in the short term. With no regulations on timber imports, pre-COVID risk levels will likely be restored when India’s domestic demand picks up and is expected to increase rapidly during the 2020s.

The likely explanatory factors for the overall decline in Indian timber imports from high-risk sources over the period 2019-2021 are:

  • A (probably temporary) decline in domestic consumption of some high-risk imported species.
  • Supply chain disruption from a number of high-risk sources, where in general imports have increased from high-income countries that have been able to progress faster with their vaccination. programs and getting COVID under control.
  • Increased substitution of high-risk imports by domestic production, despite the observed lack of elasticity of domestic timber supply.
  • COVID outbreaks in source countries, which continued to impact India’s timber supply chain in 2021.

So we’re probably seeing a short-term trend. The long-term trend will only become clear when data for 2022 and beyond becomes available. However, we anticipate that short-term factors including remaining COVID-related impacts, war in Ukraine and a sharp rise in inflation are likely to influence India’s timber trade in the coming years.

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