EU countries imported between 26.5m and 31m cubic metres of wood and related products from illegal and suspect sources, mainly from Russia, Indonesia and China, the organisation said.

Its report, Illegal Wood for the European Market, points the finger at Finland, the UK, Germany and Italy, which are said to be the major importers of illegally-traded wood.

WWF campaigners are calling on the EU to introduce strong legislation to prevent illegal wood entering the EU markets.

It says the existing EU Forest and Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing scheme is failing to curb the trade in illegal wood.

A major criticism of the FLEGT is that it does not cover many products that are manufactured from illegal wood, such as furniture and paper.

“Illegal logging destroys the protective function of forests, increasing risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, and leads to deforestation, one of the main causes for climate change,” said Anke Schulmeister, WWF Forest Policy Officer

“Illegal logging also pushes wood prices down resulting in major economic losses for states, industries and local communities.

“Strong measures are needed at EU level to protect the worlds remaining forests and our own future.”

The main trader of illegal wood is Russia, according to the report, which traded 10.4m cubic metres of suspicious wood to EU countries in 2006.

Half of this arrived via Finland, where it was processed into pulp and paper then exported to other EU countries, the campaigners said.

The second largest illegal exporter according to the report was Indonesia, followed by China, which tripled its exports of wood and paper products to the EU between 2003 and 2006. About a third of Chinese exports are suspected to be from illegal sources.

Kate Martin

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