(Business in Cameroon) – In a report titled “TAINTED TIMBER, TARNISHED TEMPLES: How the Cameroon-Vietnam Timber Trade Hurts the Cameroonian People and Forests,” two NGOs (Environmental Investigation Agency and Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement-CED) reveal the nefarious consequences of Vietnamese companies’ logging operations in Cameroon.
“The Cameroon-Vietnam timber trade has minimally contributed to Cameroon’s revenues since financial transactions are often conducted underground, cash-based, and misdeclared. Between 2014 and 2017, exporters from Cameroon reported US$308 million less than importers in Vietnam,” the report reveals.
This means that over the 3-year period, Vietnamese wood exporters operating in Cameroon exported over XAF170 billion of raw timber (which constitutes the bulk of wood exports from Cameroon to Vietnam, according to the report) leaving no trail. As those hidden transactions are not showing in companies’ turnover, they could not be included in the tax collected by Cameroonian authorities.
According to the authors of the above-mentioned report, this practice is not the only malpractice carried out by Vietnamese loggers operating in Cameroon. “The exploding Cameroon-Vietnam timber trade relies on shocking schemes and illegal activities,” such as “Widespread Violation of Export Law,” “Illegal Harvest and Disregard for National Parks” and “Laundering Operations Covered by Paperwork.”
“To meet the requirements of Vietnamese authorities, trading companies have focused their efforts on obtaining Cameroonian paperwork while disregarding the actual origin of the timber placed on the Vietnamese market,” the report explains.
“In just a few years, Vietnam has become the second-largest market for Cameroonian timber (after China), while Cameroon has become the largest supplier of tropical logs to Vietnam (accounting for 25 percent of the logs imported between 2016 and 2019, in value). In Vietnam, Cameroonian logs have replaced the Southeast Asian species that previously filled the market,” thanks to those unorthodox practices, it continues.