EU Timber Regulation has implications for growers and others operating and trading in the forestry and timber sector
The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) is one part of the EU's FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan which is aimed at helping to stamp out illegal logging worldwide. The Regulation entered into force on 3rd March 2013 and it is directly applicable in all EU Member States.
In Ireland's case, supporting national legislation - European Union (Timber and Timber Products) (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2014 - was enacted in July 2014.
Briefly, this national legislation;
- designates the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine as the competent authority to oversee implementation of the EUTR in Ireland,
- lays down effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for non-compliance with the EUTR, and
- provides the modalities for practical enforcement such as inspections and powers of authorised officers.
The regulation applies to the following timber and timber products:
- fuel wood in logs, billets, twigs and similar forms
- wood in chips or particles
- sawdust and wood waste and scrap, whether or not agglomerated in logs, briquettes, pellets or similar forms
- wood in the rough, whether or not stripped of bark or sapwood, or roughly squared
- railway or tramway sleepers
- wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or end-jointed, of a thickness exceeding 6 mm
The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing on the EU market of illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber. It divides those dealing in wood or wood products into two categories - operators and traders - each with its own distinct obligations and responsibilities.
Operators - defined in the Regulation as those who place timber or timber products on the EU market for the first time in the course of a commercial activity - are required to put in place a risk management or 'due diligence' system which contains three key elements.
Operator obligations under EU Timber Regulation:
- Information - the operator must have access to information describing the timber and timber products, country of harvest, species, quantity, details of supplier and information of compliance with the applicable national legislation of the country of harvest. Applicable legislation means the legislation in force in the country of harvest covering the following matters: rights to harvest timber within legal boundaries, payments for harvesting rights and timber including duties related to timber harvesting, environmental and forest legislation including forest management and biodiversity conservation where directly related to timber harvesting, third parties' legal rights concerning use and tenure that are affected by timber harvesting, and trade and customs insofar as the forest sector is concerned.
- Risk assessment - the operator should assess the risk of illegal timber in his supply chain taking account of the information above and the criteria set out in the Regulation.
- Risk mitigation - where the risk assessment shows that there is a risk of illegal timber in the supply chain then the operator should mitigate this by requiring additional information and verification from the supplier.
Traders - defined in the EUTR as those who sell or buy timber or timber products already placed on the EU market - are required to keep information about their suppliers and customers so that the timber products can be traced if necessary.
Trader obligations under EU Timber Regulation:
Organisations/individuals who are buyers or sellers of (either or both) international or EU/Irish timber or timber products subsequent to that timber's or timber products' first placement on the EU/Irish market excluding retail customers who are purchasing for their own personal use with no onward trade or further use as part of a commercial activity.
Traders are obliged to be able to identify:
- The Operator whom the timber or timber product has been bought from; and
- The Traders to whom they have supplied/sold timber or timber products to.
Traders are obliged to keep this information for at least five years and to provide it to the Competent Authority, if so requested. Under the European Union (Timber and Timber Products) (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2014 it is an offence for a trader to fail to comply with these provisions. The responsibility to comply with the EUTR rests with the Trader.
From EU Guidance documentation, it appears that if an owner of standing trees arranges for them to be felled and harvested then this owner is considered the 'operator', even if the trees are then sold on roadside.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been designated the Competent Authority responsible for the application and enforcement of this Regulation in Ireland. The Department has the responsibility for checking if operators fulfil the requirements of the Regulation. This includes the organisation of spot checks to see if operators follow a Due Diligence System and if illegal timber has been placed on the market.
Ireland's Competent Authority for EUTR
International Forestry Policy Division,
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
For more information on EUTR, see:
- Timber Regulation Updates - EU Commission
- The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR)- Implementation and obligations on Operators and Traders (Department leaflet)
- European Commission site for EU Timber Regulation
- Gateway to International Timber Trade - www.timbertradeportal.com