Illegal and destructive logging is threatening the future of the world's last remaining ancient forests. Yet while developed countries have made public commitments to promote sustainable forest management, the problems of illegal production and trade of wood and wood products continue to grow. In Indonesia, Cameroon and the Brazilian Amazon estimates for the amount of logs produced illegally have reached devastating numbers. Over half of all the timber coming from Cameroon, the largest tropical timber producing country in Africa, is logged illegally. In Indonesia, millions of dollars in taxes and royalties are lost each year due to the smuggling, theft and looting of timber. In the Brazilian Amazon, government estimates show that 80% of timber is produced illegally.
A report by the Brazilian Secretariat for Strategic Affairs in 1997 found that 80 per cent of logging in the Brazilian Amazon was illegal. The Indonesia-UK Tropical Forest Management Program (2000) concluded that 73 per cent of Indonesia's logging was illegal. Figures are similar throughout the tropics. FOE has concluded that half of the timber that enters the EU may be illegally sourced – and in the UK the rate is believed to be 60 per cent.
A report released in 2000 highlighted the involvement of the group of the eight leading industrialized countries, G8, in illegal timber trade and the failure of the G8 to live up to its own commitments on fighting illegal logging. The G8 environment ministers are expected to review the progress made on their commitments to obtain sustainable forest management around the world. In the report, "Against the Law", four case studies illustrate the G8 and European Union's involvement in illegal timber trade. This report marks the latest development that highlights the illegality and corruption within the timber trade.
A report prepared by the Government of Cameroon which documents that French and Italian logging companies are deeply involved in illegal logging in that country's rainforests. The report is the result of extensive government field investigations in Cameroon's Eastern province – where most of the current logging is taking place. The main findings are very alarming, with all but one of the logging companies investigated found to be operating against the law. Within the G8, no less than 4 major French logging companies and one Italian logging company were found to be acting illegally. Together these companies control more than 34 percent of active logging concessions in Cameroon.
Despite their public commitments to address the problem of illegal logging, the G8 countries together with their EU partners remain among the largest importers of wood products from regions where illegal production and trade of forest products are still commonplace.