Jakarta. The Indonesian government is keeping the country's doors closed on lumber exports to prevent illegal logging and ensure an adequate supply for the domestic wood processing industry, according to a Trade Ministry official.
Nurlaila Nur Muhammad, a ministry director of exports for agriculture and forest products, confirmed that the overseas sales of Indonesian timber will "stay closed," but still open exports for pulp woods.
Indonesia placed a ban on lumber exports in 2001 after the country realized that poor law enforcement had failed to prevent massive illegal logging in the country.
However, pressure from the lumber industry to revoke the law has escalated as businesses blame the move for the consistently low prices of timber, with Indonesia Forest Concessionaires Association (APHI) chairman Nana Suparman pointing out that domestic prices stand at roughly half of tropical logs' in the international markets.
Panggah Susanto, the Industry Ministry's director general of the agro-industry, defended the Trade Ministry's stance, saying that the government doesn't see the relevance of re-opening lumber exports with the domestic industry still in need of the nation's timber supply.
Ian Hilman, an activist for environmental group Eyes on the Forest in Riau, echoed his sentiments, arguing that a repeal of the law would only trigger rampant illegal logging.
According to a report released by Nature Climate Change last year, Indonesia has the highest rate of illegal logging in the world, with more than six million hectares of primary forest lost between 2000-2012. That's roughly equivalent to the size of England.
Despite the government's intentions, the ban on lumber exports has done little to stop deforestation in the country, with "more than 30 percent of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector [stemming] from the unreported clear cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions," according to a February study published by Forest Trends.