Chinese plywood facing EUTR sanctions in UK

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A number of UK Chinese plywood companies are facing sanctions under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) following an official investigation by the government which found failings in due diligence systems and product descriptions.

United Kingdom's National Measurement Office (NMO) enforces a number of areas of legislation in the UK, including the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). This puts obligations on those who trade in timber and some timber products to help ensure that the wood has been legally sourced.

Intelligence led the NMO to assess the risk of plywood imported from China and placed on the UK market. Plywood is a product that potentially represents an area of high risk, says NMO, due to long supply chains and the species used in production, being derived from illegally logged sources, notably Africa. 

Sixteen companies were identified as operators by the National Measurement Office and were requested to supply the due diligence system for the Chinese plywood that they place on the market in the EU. Of these, 14 companies submitted due diligence systems that were insufficient when compared to Article 6 of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) No. 995/2010 that outlines an operators obligation to implement a due diligence system.

The common thread running through these failures was a lack of narrative explaining how the combination of document gathering, risk assessment and mitigation (where necessary) enable the company to reach a conclusion of negligible risk that the timber in the product was sourced illegally, says NMO.

Alongside engagement with these non-compliant companies, products were purchased from the operators and subjected to microscopic analysis to ascertain the contents of the product. Of the 13 purchases tested, 9 products did not match the declaration supplied by each company regarding the species contained within the plywood, further indicating the unreliability of the supply chain of these products. In all, only one company was found to be compliant with the EUTR as a result of testing and the submission of their due diligence system.

The NMO continues to investigate the remaining cases. Various sanctions will be applied to the companies in question, including the possibility of prosecution based on non-compliance with a Notice of Remedial Action. The combined value of the imports of the companies in this project amounts to 10% of the plywood imported from China into the UK in the last year, indicating the potential scale of non compliance in the industry.

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