Premier Forest Products Ltd will import the first Chinese plywood whose origins have a verified 100% legally sourced content, according to The Forest Trust (TFT).

TFT said the achievement was the result of a non-profit partnership between Premier, a Chinese plywood manufacturer, a group of Chinese poplar farmers and a Malaysian timber producer and forest concession owner.

Poplar and hardwood plywood, produced at Jiangsu Sainty Bancom Co Ltd in Hongze County, will be shipped to the UK this month and were legally verified for the first time by SmartWood, part of the Rainforest Alliance, to be free of illegal timber.

“Prior to our partnership with Premier, attempts to trace the legality of timber used in plywood had been able to guarantee the legitimacy of only some of the wood contained in the product,” said TFT executive director Scott Poynton.

“With all these new laws and regulations coming on line, we’ve heard a lot of pessimism about the ability to ensure the legality of wood products, particularly of composite products like plywood. But we’ve done it, and the model is now here for others to adopt.”

To deal with issues surrounding supply of plywood core material, TFT set up a Chinese farmers’ supply group which sells their poplar trees to a peeling mill that verifies the timber’s legality and processes the veneer for sale to Sainty.

Mr Poynton said it could now be proved that suppliers can comply with the US Lacey Act and the upcoming FLEGT regulations.

The plywood project has been supported by funding from the Timber Trade Action Plan, a consortium of European timber federations, the UK Timber Trade Federation and the Rainforest SmartWood programme.