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A significant impact of the UK’s exit from the EU single market on 1st January is the requirement for phytosanitary certificates, which currently apply to a range of wood products imported into the EU, to be extended to UK’s imports from other EU countries (and vice versa).

The direct effect of this on tropical wood products is limited by the fact that existing EU phytosanitary controls on commercial timber products apply almost exclusively to temperate woods since these give rise to by far the greatest risk to the health of European forests.

However, the indirect effects of phytosanitary certification on trade flows can be significant since requirements for certification, which may include specific treatments and in some cases limit trade to wood from narrowly defined regions, can greatly increase costs and limit access to raw material.

The phytosanitary rules are often complex, subject to change in response to ongoing monitoring of pest outbreaks, and frequently lead to temperate hardwood products from outside the EU being held up at ports for additional inspections or returned to the seller for compliance failures.

Notable commercial wood species requiring phytosanitary certificates for EU imports include: oak from the United States; maple, birch, aspen, ash and walnut from North America, Russia and Asia; cherry from Asia; and coniferous wood with bark from all locations.

The UK is mirroring the EU plant health regulations in its own plant health legislation with the result that, starting 1st January, specific requirements for phytosanitary certification will be extended to UK imports from EU countries as well as from non-EU countries.

UK wood products imports from the EU that are subject to phytosanitary certification for the first time since 1st January include walnut from all EU countries, and all wood products of a range of hardwood species including maple, alder, birch, beech, ash, plane, poplar, willow, lime and elm from Austria, France, Finland, Germany and Italy. All coniferous wood product imports into the UK from Spain and Portugal will also be controlled to prevent spread of pine wood nematode.

Another change relates to wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the EU, including Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which moves freely without checks and controls in the EU single market. Starting 1st January 2021 all WPM moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking.

All WPM may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU or UK. This requirement is already in place for WPM moving into the EU and UK from the rest of the world.

It is noteworthy that there are no new phytosanitary controls on UK imports of EU oak products and UK trade of softwood products will continue largely as now, as woods with bark will face plant health controls, while processed woods fully debarked, except from Portugal and Spain, may be imported unheeded without certificates.

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