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Who is importing forest products from Africa to China? An analysis of implications for initiatives to enhance legality and sustainability
Global forest product value chains are increasingly subject to regulatory requirements, such as legality and sustainability certification. For African forest products, a shift in the export destinations of forest products towards China, the leading timber product manufacturer, has raised concerns that social and environmental product and process standards are declining. Aggregate drivers of this shift have been documented, yet there has been little enterprise-level analysis of Chinese actors in African timber imports based in China. This paper provides an initial analysis, highlighting implications for existing and emerging regulatory initiatives. Data show that although an increasing number of Chinese private enterprises is engaged in African timber imports, import volumes remain concentrated among a small number of geographically clustered private and state-owned firms. Government-led schemes are beginning to address timber legality concerns. But given China’s growing domestic market for finished wood products, sustainability certification requirements driven by the US and EU will not be sufficient to ensure improved sourcing by Chinese firms.