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Gabon: Ban on Export of Unfinished Lumber

(Nov. 23, 2009) According to a November 6, 2009, announcement, confirmed by the Ministry of Water and Forests, Gabon has decided to ban the export of unhewn timber, beginning in 2010. The goals of the ban are to conserve forest resources and to fight unemployment in the country. The Cabinet has stated that Gabon wants to export “finished and semi-finished products with a high added value.” (Gabon to Ban Export of Unhewn Timber from 2010, AFP (World Service), Nov. 19, 2009, available at WORLD NEWS CONNECTION No. 200911191477.1_2ef5003e7f27716d (online subscription database).)

The new policy is consistent with the priorities of Gabon's new President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, who took office on October 16, 2009. Commenting on the measure, Gerard Moussu, Secretary-General of the Union of Industrial Foresters and Forest Managers, said, “[i]t's happening too fast.” (Id.) While he supports the industrialization of the lumber sector, he believes that the ban on raw timber exports is premature. Instead, the union thinks the goal should be to have 75% of the exports be dressed wood by 2012, which was the target established in a 2001 law. (Id.)

Gabon now exports approximately three million cubic meters of wood annually; more than half of that amount is unprocessed, chopped lumber. The lumber industry is the second largest employer in the country, after the civil service. (Id.)