The 2013 EU Timber Regulation

The new EU Timber Regulation which comes into force on 3 March 2013 will prohibit illegally harvested timber and timber products from being placed on the EU market.

Here, Peter Latham, Chairman of timber importer and distributor, James Latham, warns that while the new legislation is being welcomed by the majority of timber traders, in the long term, it could undermine both the UK government’s and responsible trader’s determination to place the emphasis on sustainability.

The 2013 EU Timber Regulation:

The new legislation will be enforced by all EU member states and requires that due diligence is applied to all timber placed on the EU market. More importantly, it requires that traders, including those further down the supply chain, keep track of what timber or timber products were bought from whom, and where applicable, who they were sold to.

The National Measurement Office, the competent authority, will carry out the checks to verify that the law is complied with. Consequences for not complying with the law will include fines, seizure of the timber and immediate suspension of authorisation to trade.

Peter Latham explained, “All this may sound a long way off, but I can assure you it’s not, especially when you consider that supply chains in this industry can stretch out for up to 2 years and the UK government has yet to introduce the enabling legislation.

“Contrary to the name, the legislation covers more than just timber. It includes paper and a number of timber based manufactured products which are defined in the regulation by the custom entry code.

“The first placer of timber onto the EU market, called in the regulations the “operator”, has an obligation to ensure that a particular timber has not been illegally harvested. Where appropriate, operators are required to keep details of the species concerned and the concession or region of harvest.”

“Operators also have to carry out a risk based due diligence process to prevent illegal timber getting into the supply chain. Traders in timber and timber products are required to keep information from whom they have purchased timber and to whom they have sold timber for a period of at least 5 years.”

It is estimated by the WWF that up to 20% of timber imported into the UK is illegal. The legislation primarily focuses on importers who "place timber on the EU market". The UK Coalition government have since dropped their manifesto pledge to also make it illegal to receive, transport and sell illegal timber once entered into the EU which would have made it very similar to the US's Lacey Act.

With EU 995/2010, once the timber or wood product is in the EU it's then free to be marketed, traded or converted into other wood based products. But to place the timber on the market, the importer must carry out a "due diligence" process. This process requires;

1. Information about the supply of timber products, including description, species, country of harvest, quantity, name and address of supplier and trader and documents indicating compliance with the applicable legislation

2. Evaluation of the risk of placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the market. Criteria which can be used to assess this risk and to mitigate it include:

  • Assurance of compliance with applicable legislation, including certification and third party verification schemes.
  • prevalence of illegal harvesting of specific tree species
  • prevalence of illegal logging in the country of harvest
  • UN or EU sanctions on timber imports or exports
  • complexity of the supply chain

3. Unless the risk of illegality is negligible, steps to be taken to mitigate this risk; for example, additional information, third party verification.

Failure to carry out the above could incur seizure of the timber or dissuasive penalties.

Mr Latham, continued, “This legislation is bound to have a profound effect on the trade in timber products and the information that has to be kept on them throughout the supply chain. Without doubt it is welcomed as creating a more level playing field for those producers and suppliers who have already been stocking and promoting timber and timber products from well managed forests for many years.

“It is also clear that timber certified by one of the recognised certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), while not exempt from the regulation, will provide a straight forward means of demonstrating compliance.

Finally, Peter Latham concluded with a warning that all of the effort and good work invested in promoting sustainability in the UK over recent years must not be overshadowed, “There is a serious risk that the European move, concentrating on legality, will undermine both the UK government’s and responsible trader’s determination to place the emphasis on sustainability and this must not be forgotten.”

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James Latham

James Latham

James Latham began importing hardwoods into Liverpool in 1757 and since then, the company has developed into a leading importer and distributor of wood-based sheet materials, joinery quality softwoods, hardwoods and hardwood flooring. The company has...
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