Ukraine exports more illegal lumber to the EU than any other country – more than Latin America, Africa and South East Asia combined, Zerkalo Nedeli (the Mirror Weekly) reports, citing an investigation by the British ecological organization Earthsight.
Despite the moratorium on deforestation, over the last four years the export volume of Ukrainian wood to EU countries has grown by 75%, exceeding €1 billion last year.
The investigators estimate that 40% of this lumber was felled or sold illegally.
The illegal “sanitary” felling carried out by state enterprises accounts for 38-44% of the total production and export of Ukrainian timber.
According to the analysts, in 2011 the scheme of selling “sanitary” wood was initiated by Viktor Syvets, ex-chairman of Ukraine’s State Forestry Agency, who later fled to Russia.
Since 2016 the State Forestry Agency has had no chairman, but Earthsight claims that Syvets’ scheme has remained operational.
“Shady” sawmills use “sanitary” timber to make sawn timber, whose export volume exceeds their legal production by 75%. The annual volume of illicit Ukrainian sawn timber exported to other countries amounts to 1.2 million cubic meters.
The British investigators conclude that the increase in illicit timber exports from Ukraine is due not only to corruption in the country, but also to the high demand and poor regulation in this area within the EU.
The buyers of illegal Ukrainian wood include Europe’s largest producers of wooden panels, paper and pulp.
Ukraine has recently introduced harsher penalties for wood smuggling.