Plywood rises to EUTR challenge

12 November 2012

The EU Timber Regulation may cause some disturbance for the tropical plywood trade, but long term it will benefit the sector and its image, according to three leading importers

TTJ: What has your company done to prepare for the EUTR?
Nigel Williams, director Premier Forest Products:
We've supported initiatives to raise awareness of the regulation through the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and embraced its Responsible Purchasing Policy (RPP), which delivers an element of what companies need to comply with EUTR due diligence [illegality] risk assessment of suppliers. The key discipline of our purchasing policy is legality and we strive to assess all key suppliers on an ongoing basis. We've also contracted an independent due diligence specialist.
Ian Attwood, managing director International Plywood: We've spent considerable funds preparing and hope to be compliant by January 2013. The TTF RPP - and our [legality assurance] track record have helped us get ready over the last two years.
Chris Sutton, director James Latham plc: We've been visiting every country that supplies us tropical hardwood and were the first signatories of the TTF RPP, which we've used to assess existing and potential new suppliers.

TTJ: Will the EUTR lead to certain tropical plywoods being substituted?
Inevitably this will happen. We're working with a South American mill to develop a hardwood throughout panel - and SmartPly is aiming ToughPly [OSB] at merchants.
IA: Red hardwood-faced Chinese plywood will be affected as it's very hard to provide legality proof from the high-risk suppliers, like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Africa. We're looking at alternative conforming species, and a hybrid engineered face material. FSC-certified material will also grow, especially using 90% plantation species in the cores.
NW: It's already happening and Premier has developed a suite of plywoods using non-tropical fully-certified species, from general panels to high-performance products.

TTJ: Are suppliers sufficiently up to speed on the legislation?
We've made all our suppliers aware of their requirements - but some are struggling to provide suitable documentation. We've been encouraged by their willingness, but if they can't, they'll be removed from our approved supplier list.
NW: We've been working tirelessly with ours to ensure supply is backed by chain of custody we can audit.
IA: China in particular has been very slow on the EUTR, but is now waking up as it can see EU buyers not purchasing without proof of legality.

TTJ: Will EUTR compliance ultimately benefit the plywood and broader timber trade?
Absolutely. If people don't come into line their business and reputation could suffer. It should be seen as a positive sales tool.
IA: It should also give us the opportunity to improve plywood quality and remove cheaper products which are not welcome in the UK.
NW: It should see the last of low-cost, too-good-to-be-true products that bring the market down, and also benefit alternatives, like OSB and heat-treated timber. The key issue, however, is effective policing of the regulation.
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