German beech lumber exports to India in danger

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A change in hardwood import regulations in India is considered a de facto export ban by the German Sawmill and Wood Industry Association (DeSH). The main reason seems to be the Indian import regulations, which make a difference between American and European beech. DeSH says that the German hardwood industry now faces massive losses.

"For more than ten years German sawmills exported beech to India without any incident," says Steffen Rathke, President of DeSH. Starting from November 2014, it is however no longer possible to receive the phytosanitary certification necessary for beech lumber. "With it actually an export prohibition was issued,“ explains Rathke.

A small forgery scandal in India brought the German beech exports in this country suddenly to the test. To save taxes, two lumber shipments were apparently re-classified to roundwood after importation from Germany. Although it could be proven that the German authorities acted properly and had issued the phytosanitary certificate for lumber. However, the incident revealed that the Indian import licence differentiates between American beech (Fagus Grandifolia) and European beech (Fagus Sylvatica). Unlike practiced for many years, the latter may not officially be introduced.

The responsible supervisory authority in Germany reacted immediately with the suspension of the plant protection certifications for beech wood. ''The German authorities issued a document explaining that beech lumber meets the essential import requirements- such as the heat treatment of more than 56 degrees for more than 30 minutes- a fact which was under certifications of Fagus for many years,'' said Rathke.

To correct this, a solution must now be found as quickly as possible, said Rathke. For the German sawmilling industry, the regulatory processes in India could be fatal: "Inclusion in the import list takes four to six months. For the industry it would be a fiasco, "said Rathke. About 80 containers of beech wood are traveling to India per month. The damage to the German sawmill industry would be in the double digit millions.
Currently, German sawyers and Indian importers hold talks with the German Embassy and the Indian Ministry of Agriculture. But this is not enough, says Rathke: "Without political backing by the German government a timely solution will not be reached."

With more than 20,000 cubic meters of lumber and 30,000 cubic meters of roundwood per year, India is a major beech sales market for Germany. For Rathke it's the occasion to remind to the entire industry how important a conscientious export behavior is .

Unlike lumber, roundwood must not be heat-treated before export. "The logs are shipped with bark and only exposed in the sea containers with wood preservatives. The effectiveness of this method is doubtful, the risk of introduction of harmful organisms is therefore considered acceptable", criticized Rathke. The current export-stop shows how serious the consequences could have an inadequate export behavior. He therefore asks that phytosanitary measures for roundwood in Europe should be put on uniform and effective standards. A complete control system is necessary to ensure compliance.

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Feroz Asger Ali
We are aware of this problem and we through the South Indian plywood manufacturers association have been trying to resolve this issue to allow imports with the acceptable fumigation practices ,and hopefully a resolution will come out soon ,in the meanwhile the authorities have allowed the treatment to be carried out at port of entry ,but this attracts a penalty of five times the normal charge ,