Timber Development UK is warning members to remain on high alert for illegal imports of conflict timber from Russia and Belarus, amid reports that Russian birch plywood is still being exported to the market via third-party countries.
New reports suggest that Russian birch plywood and other conflict timbers are being exported into America and other countries, including the UK, disguised as having originated in areas such as Vietnam, Asia and China.
The import of wood products from Russia to the EU and UK was banned in 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when wood products in that area were classified as ‘conflict timber’.
Since then, importing any timber originating from Russia, Belarus, and certain parts of Ukraine to the EU and UK is considered illegal under the EU/UK Timber Regulations. This also includes timber products indirectly imported to the EU/UK via third-party countries.
However, this ban is being evaded by some, who are transporting their products from Russia and Belarus into a third-party country, where it is then repackaged and reported as originating from that country instead.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says Russian birch plywood is being routed through Asia before being shipped to America, and that most birch products currently being exported from Vietnam to the United States in fact originate in Russia.
According to Vietnam customs data, roughly 40,000m3 of birch plywood is transported every month from Russia and China into Vietnam, where it is assembled into furniture and plywood and repackaged, with these countries then listed as the country of origin.
TDUK members have also reported receiving offers of birch plywood ‘from the Far East’, and TDUK is urging its members to carry out their due diligence and make sure they know the timber’s country of origin before purchasing from new sources.
There are also concerns that conflict timber is being sold in Australia using false country-of-origin labels.
Unlike the European Union, Australia has not imposed an outright ban on timber from Russia and Belarus, but has introduced 35% tariffs on wood products exported from the region. The Australian Timber Importers Federation (ATIF) has written to its members warning that Russian beech is being blended into plywood in China before being shipped to Australia.
“Evidence suggests that increasing volumes of logs are currently being exported from Russia into China and then exported to other countries and manufactured into timber products,” ATIF’s statement said.
There have also been reports of some banned Russian and Belarusian timber entering the EU by claiming they have originated from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.
Buying or selling sanctioned Russian wood products in the UK or EU can result in severe consequences for the businesses involved, even if this was done unintentionally.
Nick Boulton, TDUK’s Head of Technical and Trade, says: “We would ask all our members to continue remaining vigilant against any organisations offering to supply Birch Plywood to the UK from the Far East or countries like Turkey, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.
“Should Russian timber products be found in the UK/EU market, the importer and all customers who have purchased these products may be subject to legal action, fines and reputational damage, which would also impact their trading partners in the manufacturing country.
“Always do your due diligence with any potential new suppliers, especially when dealing with products that could potentially be considered conflict timber.”
More information on the current sanctions can be found online at www.timberdevelopment.uk