The decision, contained in the government’s Sustainable Procurement Action Plan, was apparently made without consultation with the Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET).

Timber-producing countries which are signed up to the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade voluntary licensing scheme (which covers the legality of wood) will have until April 1, 2015 to prove their sustainbility credentials. But, it seems that any other timber that has proof of legality only will not be accepted for government projects after April 2009.

TTJ has contacted Defra for clarification of the decision and is awaiting a response. Until now the government’s policy has been legality as a minimum for its timber contracts with sustainability preferred.

Forest industry expert Rupert Oliver, of Forest Industries Intelligence, said the new policy could cause problems more in the hardwood and plywood sectors rather than softwood.

“The availability of certified hardwood and plywood is more restricted than certified softwood,” he said.

“It will create problems for a lot of producers who have developed legality verification procedures in consultation with CPET.”

Mr Oliver said the market for high-class complex joinery and office furniture, where a variety of hardwood timber species are used, could face difficulties.

He also said the new policy was discriminatory against the US, the single largest supplier of hardwood to the UK, because it was difficult for many Amercian hardwood producers to get certification for “technical reasons”.

Meanwhile, The Timber Trade Federation said it welcomed the strengthening of the government’s timber procurement policy but said the targets were “challenging”.

It also admitted to concerns, such as the unwillingness to pay premiums on certified tropical hardwood and that developing countries would have reduced market access.

Another industry source said that government policy on procurement was increasingly driven by the “green arms race” in politics. “Politicians are trying to out do each other to show just how environmentally sound they are,” he said. “David Cameron has set the pace, making his green agenda central to Conservative policy. Now the government is playing catch up.”