Foreign Trade: At least 2 million tonnes of timber pass through Cameroon every year since 2018
A trailer loaded with logs leaving the port of Kribi in the of South Cameroon.

Foreign Trade: At least 2 million tonnes of timber pass through Cameroon every year since 2018

Shipments of timber transported by trucks from Cameroon, the CAR and Congo-Brazzaville pass through the port hub of Douala and Kribi supply markets in China, Vietnam, France, Spain, Germany, etc. A volume of timber that could soon double thanks to the new multi-purpose quay of the wood terminal of the port of Douala inaugurated on March 29, 2023 Foreign Trade timber Cameroon.  

A semi-trailer truck registered in Bangui has just stopped this Wednesday, June 21, 2023, in an open-air car wash in the Ary neighbourhood, at the eastern entrance to the city of Douala in Cameroon. It’s 2 p.m. The big truck is carrying 28 tonnes of Sapelli logs Foreign Trade timber Cameroon. The vehicle took off from Mbaïki, in the south-west of the Central African Republic (CAR), five days earlier, after loading up in the Lobaye Forest.

Ali Aroun, the driver on board, makes his usual stop at the entrance of the city before heading to the wood terminal of the Port of Douala (Tbpd) Foreign Trade timber Cameroon. Like other drivers who perform the same routine, this stop is an opportunity to clean the vehicle, but also to offload the extra goods added to the logs. When there aren’t small piles of firewood, charcoal and foodstuffs are stowed next to the logs.

Ary’s stop also allows Ali Aroun to hand over the wheel to another driver who is more experienced in Port procedures. However, Ali will remain in the cab of the vehicle throughout the offloading process, which can last one to two days, says an employee aboard the Force Trailer vehicle. ‘During the journey, there are around twenty checkpoints, all control officers: the police, the gendarmerie, and of the ministry of forest and fauna… There are times when the 180,000 CFA francs road expenses get finish Foreign Trade timber Cameroon. When we get to the port, we have to be patient. We register. We line up and make a circle to go and offload,’ says Ali Aroun, a driver who has been transporting wood for five years.


The timber he transports bears several stamps, including the ‘Cemac Rca’ seal, which provides information on the origin of the timber. The logs also bear the stamp of SCAD. SCAD is the “Société centrafricaine d’agriculture et de déroulage”, a forestry company that cuts timber in the Lobaye Forest in the CAR. According to Ali Aroun, on Wednesday 21 June 2023, five trucks that had left Bangui five days earlier with SCAD cargo arrived in Douala. Fifteen minutes after Aroun had parked, another « Force Trailer » semi-trailer truck parked nearby at the same car wash in Ary.

We learnt that about sixty trucks in total make the weekly trip to Douala with shipments of timber from SCAD. The maximum weight of the vehicles, checked at the weighbridges, is 28 tonnes. This represents about 1,680 tonnes of logs shipped per week by SCAD alone.

At the national level, the average annual log and sawn timber exports between 2011 and 2021 in CAR were about 210,000 m³ and 24,000 m³ respectively. Exports of logs reduced from 278,152 m³ in 2001 to 238,625 m³ in 2021. However, this downward slopping curve is rather evolutionary between 2017–2021, with an annual average of 294,776 m3 of logs exported during these five years. Exports of sawn timber have equally declined. They reduced from nearly 73,000 m³ to about 26,000 m³ between 2001 and 2021.

According to the rapport “State of the forest-timber sector in Central African Republic (2021)”, between 2017 and 2021, 1,473,882 m3 of timber were exported in logs from the CAR, as compared to 78,439 m3 of sawn timber. Besides SCAD, other companies in the timber sector in the CAR, such as SOFOCAD, SEFCA and CENTRABOIS, make regular trips to the port of Douala (Littoral), as well as to the deep-water port of Kribi, in the south of Cameroon.

In addition to timber from the Central African Republic, the Port of Douala’s Timber Terminal also receives shipments from northern Congo-Brazzaville, where the forest sector  generates a turnover of about 100 billion CFA francs a year and contributes 20 billion CFA francs to government tax revenues. Forest exploitation, which contributes 5.6% of the Republic of Congo’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is presented as the country’s second-largest source of revenue after the hydrocarbons sector, which accounts for 79% of GDP (2018) Foreign Trade timber Cameroon. The forest sector is thus the second-largest source of employment in the country, after the public service.

Ayous, Sappeli, Tali… 

In 2018, exports of industrial round timber (logs), with 798,905 m³, ranked first out of the five categories of timber forest products in Congo, as in 2017. But most of the timber handled at the Port of Douala’s Wood Terminal comes from Cameroon. According to production information updated on November 24, 2022, by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (Minfof), national timber production in 2021 in Cameroon amounted to 2,870,118 m3.

Ayous, Sappeli and Tali are the species most likely to be felled between 2019 and 2021 in this country, where forest titles are managed by some fifty large international or national companies. That is (59), forty national medium-sized companies (46) and thirty rural communes (38) owning communal forests. In terms of species, the CAR saw an increase (%) in the production of Ayous, Iroko, and Mukulungu trees and a decrease in the production of Tali trees.

According to Minfof’s documents, 2,870,118 m3 of timber were felled in Cameroon in 2021. The ministry’s report notes that 732,198 m3 of sawn timber were exported from Cameroon in 2021, Société de Transformation du Bois de la Kadey (STBK) being the leading exporter in terms of volume, with a total of 39,001 m3. The country also exports Veneer sheets (67,385 m3 in 2020) and plywood (7,862 m3 in 2020).

According to a press release from the Bolloré Africa Logistics subsidiary, which will change its name to Africa Global Logistics (AGL) in March 2023, the Port of Douala’s wood terminal, which employs 400 people, handles an average of 1,100,000 m3 of timber per year. The group’s communications unit in Cameroon refused to make any comment on this. On the other hand, during the inauguration of the multi-purpose quay of the Wood Terminal on 29 March 2023, Pad officials  indicated that the volume of logs processed  is estimated at 1.6 million tons per year. This port hub, we are told, will enable this volume to at least doubled. According to projections, the platform could quickly process up to 3.2 million tonnes of timber.

The National Institute of Statistics (NIS) in a rapport  on « Cameroon’s foreign trade from January to September 2022 »,  notes that during this period, seven main  products accounted for 92.9% of export earnings. These are mainly crude petroleum oils (44.8%), liquefied natural gas (17.1%), raw cocoa beans (7.0%), sawn timber (6.1%), raw cotton (5.5%) and cocoa paste (3.2%). In addition, Cameroon’s export earnings amounted to 2,487 billion CFA francs for 5.9 million tonnes of goods over the same period. « The increase in export earnings is due to higher sales of certain key export products.

Such as liquefied natural gas (138.2%) and crude oil (64.8%) », indicates the report. However, the forest sector, which contributes about 6% of  Cameroon’s GDP, accounts for 30% of the value of the country’s non-oil exports.

Foreign Trade timber Cameroon Kribi Deep-water Port

The structure of long-haul timber export traffic at the port of Douala remained progressive between 2017 and 2021, with a peak of 2,139,463 tonnes of timber handled in 2018. In addition to the performance of the port of Douala, the deep-water port of Kribi has been recording good results since it began operations in 2018. Statistics gathered from the Kribi’s Multi-purpose Terminal (KMT) manager, who requested anonymity, indicated that 241,454.175 tonnes of timber logs was exported in 2022. The first statistics for 2023 (in July) show 115,664.5 tonnes of timber already processed. Timber is shipped to three destinations: China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

The port of Kribi’s statistics has reduced significantly. Nevertheless, data from 2018 when it was launched indicates that 2,000 m3 of timber was handled every day at the PAK (Stats 2019) for a total annual volume estimated 730,000 m3. In just a few months of operation after it was launched in 2018, the port of Kribi exported 337,985 tonnes of timber, making the port the second-largest shipment site for this raw material, according to the Pak’s online platform.

Given the 2018 statistics for Kribi and the average volume of timber exports at the port of Douala between 2017 and 2021 (i.e. 1,807,343 tonnes), at least 2 million tonnes of timber pass through Cameroon every year since 2018.

This reduction in log exports recorded since 2022 in Kribi can be justified.   « Between 2018 and 2021, traffic at the multi-purpose terminal consisted almost exclusively of log exports. » PAK explains in an official document that “since the beginning of 2022, most of the terminal’s traffic has been imports, thanks to the very strong start-up of clinker traffic”. In the first six months of 2023, 185,066 tonnes of clinker was handled.

China, Vietnam, France and Germany have been the main destinations for Central African timber since 2015. According to a 2021 rapport on the state of the forest-timber sector in the Central African Republic, these countries account for between 75% and 90% of total log exports. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) also notes that China bought about one third of all timber globally sold in 2014. These countries probably import half of all tropical trees felled in the world, informs the institute.

Difficult to Ban Log Exports

Arabo Adamou confirms that most of the timber arriving at the Douala Port’s wood terminal is transported as logs, and very little as sawn timber. “Cameroon is a transit country. It is not a destination country. Timber sold from the CEMAC countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville are transported in ships to China or Europe: France, Spain, etc.,” says the head of operations at the Gttc national office.

Despite a sub-regional decision of January 1, 2023, banning the export of logs from the six CEMAC countries (Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Chad, CAR and Equatorial Guinea), logs continue to arrive at Cameroon’s port hubs for export. The implementation of this decision was postponed to a later date in view of the reluctance expressed by member countries of the Central African Economic Union (UEAC).

During the 38th session of the UEAC Council of Ministers, held in Yaoundé at the end of October 2022 they deemed it necessary to postpone the implementation of the decision. Member countries also expressed doubts about the tax revenue lost from the export of logs. The decision to ban the export of logs was initially due to take effect on January 1, 2022.    Before the 2023 deadline was postponed.

The idea behind this initiative should it finally be implemented, is to boost local timber processing in the six countries of the CEMAC zone. In Cameroon, this vision is provided for and framed by Law N0 94/01 of January 20, 1994, governing forests, wildlife and fisheries, which, in Chapter 5 entitled “Promotion and Marketing of Timber and Forest Products,” stipulates in Article 71 that:

“(1) Seventy percent of the total production of each species of logs shall be processed by the local industry during a transitional period of five (5) years with effect from the date of enactment of this law. Thereafter, the exportation of log timber shall be prohibited and the totality of the national timber production shall be processed by the local industry. (2) The exportation of unprocessed special forest products shall, in accordance with conditions laid down by decree, be subject to a prior annual authorisation issued by forestry services and to the payment of the graduated surtax determined according to the volume exported.”

Foreign Trade timber Cameroon Illegal Timber  

Although systems have been put in place to monitor and control the legal status of timber, stakeholders in the Cameroon subsidiary admit that there is still illegal timber in circulation. “It’s commonly known as wild timber ». There’s a control system that people bypass. The head of the operations department at the Gttc’s national office points out that « water and forests officers often seize timber at checkpoints across the country ».

In countries of the Congo Basin, corruption contributes to illegal logging and deforestation.   In 2020, the corruption perception index stood at 19, 25 and 26 for Congo, Cameroon and CAR respectively. It is also estimated that African countries lose $17 billion a year through illegal logging. Most of this contraband timber is shipped to China. The International Institute for Environment and Development states that up to 75% of African timber exports are destined for China, where 40% of the world’s furniture is made.

Mathias Mouendé Ngamo

A lire aussi :  Commerce extérieur : Au moins 2 millions de tonnes de bois transitent par le Cameroun chaque année depuis 2018

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