UK importers risk breaking sanctions if they import birch plywood from outside EU; birch forests are concentrated in Northern Russia, Eurasia, and it is 'almost certain' birch in Far East plywood being offered originated in Russia: Timber Development UK

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LONDON , August 11, 2022 (press release) –

A worrying development has emerged in recent weeks as TDUK members have reported increasing offers of Birch Plywood coming from the far east, particularly China.

It has been nearly six months since Russia’s awful invasion of Ukraine, with few signs the conflict is going to abate anytime soon.

Though grain exports began to leave Ukraine this week for the first time since the war began, international sanctions on Russia remain very much in place.

Along with maritime sanctions and restrictions on Russian payments, the most significant sanction for our industry is the Russian timber import ban.

In short, this sanction prohibits the import, acquisition, supply and delivery of revenue on all wood products coming from Russia. This spans across all wood categories, and in particular, Birch Plywood, where significant volumes were exported to the UK prior to the conflict. Members can find more detail on the timber import ban in our recent trade note here.

Our recent market statement showed that the timber industry has responded to the Russia-Ukraine conflict by following sanctions and significantly reducing imports across all the main Russian import categories. There do, however, remain significant risks.

A worrying development has emerged in recent weeks as TDUK members have reported increasing offers of Birch Plywood coming from the far east, particularly China.

Given that Birch forests are concentrated in Northern Russia and Eurasia; it is almost certain the Birch contained in the Plywood being offered has in fact originated in Russia. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, China does not share the same view of the West regarding the Ukraine conflict. This means China has imposed no sanctions on Russia, with trade patterns continuing as they were prior to the conflict.

As well as this, the increasing isolation of the Russian economy has provided a business opportunity for many Chinese timber suppliers, with sanction-stricken products such as Russian Birch now becoming widely available for import and processing.

Despite the Birch Plywood being processed in China, any timber originating from Russia is now illegal to import into the UK or the EU. Any member or non-member who imports Birch Plywood from outside of the EU runs a high risk of being in breach of UK sanctions.

To tackle this, TDUK are writing directly to organisations offering to supply Birch Plywood from the Far East making them aware of both UK and EU sanctions. This letter template can be found here.

Additionally, we would ask members that receive such offers for Birch Plywood to reply with similar text as set out in this template letter here.

It is of pivotal importance that we ensure Russian timber products remain away from the UK market. Should these products be found in the UK/EU market, the importer and all customers who have purchased these products will be subject to legal action, fines and reputational damage which would also impact their trading partners in the manufacturing country.

If you have any questions on this, nboulton@ttf.co.uk will be happy to help!

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Jason Irving
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