UK hardwood traders quiz Defra on new legislation

3 November 2011

UK hardwood traders have questioned whether they could be sent to prison under new EU legislation if some illegal timber found its way into their supply chain.

A lively meeting at the London Hardwood Club yesterday saw concerned traders question Defra forestry team representative Nicole Sale about the upcoming EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) which criminalises the import of illegal timber and wood products.

Ms Sale outlined the legislation’s key areas of prohibition, due diligence and traceability requirements but said many details were yet to be finalised. Implementation will be in March 2013.

The fifty members in attendance expressed concern as to who the ETR’s prohibition – the company first placing the product on the market – would apply to, while others wanted to know who would enforce it and whether there would be costs involved.

Ms Sale admitted there could be some grey areas in defining who was first placing product on the market, in which case the onus was on importers to do their due diligence to cover themselves. Guidance on this area will be released at the beginning of 2012.

She said either the Environment Agency or Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency were most likely to be the enforcement agency, though local authorities were also being considered. Inspectors would have the power to enter premises on spec.

Likely penalties for placing illegal timber on the market include fines, product seizures and suspension of the company’s right to trade, though these have yet to be finalised by the UK government.

Ms Sale said Defra would take into account the possible burden on businesses and try to make the legislation workable.

“I hear your concerns, we do not want to burden businesses uneccesarily, but I think getting rid of illegal logging is hopefully a good thing,” she said.

Andy Lodowski, club president, said the trade needed to face up to the issues now, despite the costs and potential difficulties involved.

Meanwhile, Ms Sale revealed that Indonesia was in pole position to be the first country to finalise a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on licensing its timber exports as legal and begin exports to the EU. Although it hadn’t been the first country to sign a VPA, she said Indonesia had made good progress to put itself in the lead.

For more on this story see the next issue of TTJ.

London Hardwood Club members listen to Defra's Nicole Sale outline the EU Timber Regulation London Hardwood Club members listen to Defra's Nicole Sale outline the EU Timber Regulation