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PEFC ruling on conflict timber to affect Australia for years to come

The decision by the world’s largest international forestry certifier to designate all timber originating from Russia and Belarus as ‘conflict timber’ banning this timber from being used in PEFC-certified products will have real and significant potential to impact on South Australia’s construction needs in the decades to come. Source: Timberbiz

South Australian Forest Products Association CEO, Mr Nathan Paine said that with around 25% of Australia’s timber imports originating from Russia and former the Soviet Union or Russian-occupied countries of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this ban in addition to future instability in the region will have a detrimental impact on using imports to meet South Australia’s constructions needs.

The Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification at the weekend categorised all timber originating from Russia and Belarus as ‘conflict timber’, therefore making such timber unusable in PEFC-certified products.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said the Russia-Ukraine conflict was its own tragedy, but the impact was spreading across international supply chains.

“This PEFC decision is the right call, but it will only tighten the supply of imported timber and fibre into Australia, where we’re already experiencing supply constraints,” Mr Hampton said.

“This is yet another clear argument for Australia to secure its local supply of sustainable timber and fibre.”

In 2021 alone Australia imported more than $80 million worth timber from Russia, while almost a quarter of total timber import volume came from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, in the region.

Up to 40% of Australian LVL is sourced from certified Russian forests while 50% of Australian plywood is sourced from Chinese manufacturers with a significant portion sourced from Russian certified forests. A significant amount of paper fibre is also sourced from Russian certified forests.

“The PEFC decision is another important factor in a weight of already compelling arguments to fast track the planting of trees for timber and fibre to shore up critical future supply,” Mr Hampton said.

Mr Paine said the invasion of Ukraine has the real and significant potential to impact on South Australia’s construction needs in the decades to come and has renewed SAFPA’s call on all political parties to support a target of planting 50 million trees over the next four years.

“Through the COVID pandemic, we have learned some hard lessons about the need to maintain our sovereign capability and the crisis in Ukraine and the decision by PEFC to designate timber from Russian and Belarus as ‘conflict timber’ has escalated the urgency in which we need to get trees in the ground to ensure we have enough fibre here in South Australia to meet our future needs,” Mr Paine said.

“Just like the United States has worked to wean itself off of reliance on Middle Eastern Oil, we need to protect our future by ensuring we are growing enough fibre for our children’s children to build houses, to build the pallets that move our food and groceries and the packaging for our medicines.

“This crisis is shining a blazing spotlight on the fact that we are not planting enough trees to meet our future needs and I am calling on the Government and Opposition to immediately support a campaign to #putin50milliontrees in the South East.

“It’s time for us to protect our future and it is time for the two parties in contention to form the next Government to back a plan to plant trees to secure our future fibre needs,” Mr Paine said.