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Pressured in West, APP looks toward markets in Middle East, Africa

Facing pressure in Europe and the United States over its environmental practices and the E.U.’s Timber Legality and Verification System (SVLK), Asia Pulp & Paper is planning to increase sales in Africa and the Middle East, the paper giant told the Investor Daily.

“We aim to boost the contribution of export to Africa and the Middle East by 3 percent,” APP spokesman Hendra Gunawan was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

A three percent increase in volume would be greater than APP’s total sales to the E.U., according to the paper supplier. Africa and the Middle East account for 10-15 percent of APP’s current paper exports.

APP has been heavily criticized for its forest management practices on the island of Sumatra. It has been linked to conversion of wildlife-rich forests for industrial pulp plantations and has missed three targets for phasing out logging of natural forests. Due to these concerns, APP has lost a number of major Western customers over the past year.

In an effort to stop the bleeding, APP last month announced a forest policy which would phase out fiber sourced from natural forests by 2015. However critics — including Greenpeace and WWF — say the policy isn’t much of an improvement over previously announced commitments.

Consumers in markets outside Europe and the United States are generally less sensitive to environmental concerns. Some greens worry that the declining importance of Western markets could diminish interest in eco-friendly products.

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