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A recent survey showed that after Brexit, difficulties in logistics, hindered timber trade with Northern Ireland, increased time and cost for filling out customs declarations and due diligence documents, have put the already tight timber supply chain in UK under additional pressure.

For timber traders in UL, the most prominent issue in the coming period is the Northern Ireland Protocol. The survey, conducted by the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF), showed that 45% of British respondents who trade with Northern Ireland in timber believed that the protocol had an adverse effect on their entry into the Northern Irish market. One interviewee stated that it is actually more cost-effective for companies to stop timber trade with customers in Northern Ireland.

Because Northern Ireland chooses to stay in the European Union, according to the Northern Ireland Protocol, timber from the UK needs to go through customs declaration, conduct due diligence, provide phytosanitary certificates, and pay customs duties. Compared with their counterparts in EU countries, British timber export companies are at a disadvantage. However, Northern Ireland timber has largely unrestricted access to the UK timber market. 55% of the Irish timber traders surveyed said that they did not encounter any trade barriers when transporting goods from Northern Ireland to the UK.

In addition, due to the increase in administrative procedures and the unwilling or inability of some EU companies to provide detailed supply chain information to help meet the due diligence requirements of the British Trade Regulations, the business of timber traders has been affected to a certain extent. Interviewees are also worried that once the grace period for customs declarations ends in July this year and the mandatory implementation of the British conformity certification system next year, they will face further challenges and uncertainties.

Encouragingly, the TTF survey found that the interviewees were fully prepared to face the requirements of the British Timber Act for operators and the due diligence and product identification requirements. TTF CEO Mr. Hopkins said: “In general, this survey shows that our member companies have responded well to the changes brought about by Brexit. However, when the new trade restrictions were introduced, the timber trade market, already affected by the coronavirus pandemic, is experiencing unprecedented challenges.”

TTF issued a market statement in December 2020, warning that the supply of wood and wood-based panels will tighten in 2021. At present, the Brexit trade agreement has led to complicated administrative procedures and slower delivery times, so the timber supply situation will worsen.

Looking to the future, in addition to poor logistics, British timber traders are also facing various challenges. The most concerning is the British qualification requirements, which may bring considerable difficulties to TTF member companies. The British government has not formulated a complete certification requirement framework for suppliers outside the UK, so it can be foreseen that companies will have to do more work next year to meet the certification requirements.

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