The Tropical Forest Trust (TFT) has challenged the UK government and the timber industry to re-examine its plywood purchasing practices.

The call follows news that Indonesian plywood mill PT Tjipta Rimba Djaja (Tjipta) cannot find a buyer for its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified plywood because it is too expensive.

Scott Poynton, an executive director of the TFT, is so disturbed that he has written to the UK Timber Trade Federation and Defra saying that the allure of low price is a short-term vision.

He said that two years ago the words ‘FSC’, ‘Indonesia’ and ‘plywood’ did not fit together.

Now Tjipta has BM TRADA chain of custody certification and has worked with the TFT to secure wood from forests moving towards FSC certification.

Mr Poynton added: “Most recently, they procured logs from an FSC-certified forest in Sumatra and are ready to deliver FSC-labelled product.”

But, said Mr Poynton, despite the UK trades’ commitment to stay engaged in Indonesia and the UK government’s new procurement rules favouring FSC-certified products, Tjipta could not find a UK buyer.

The reason, he believes, is price, with the UK market sourcing cheaper supplies from China and Malaysia.

Mr Poynton said that Chinese plywood, which was up to 25% cheaper, was inferior to the Indonesian product – yet some UK importers are still prepared to take a chance.

The result is a dying Indonesian plywood trade and Mr Poynton said if something was not done it would be hard to source quality plywood in 10 years time.

Urging the trade to buy Tjipta plywood he said: “If Tjipta can’t sell this FSC plywood to the UK market it will not only be Indonesia, its forests and its people who will be worse off.”