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Solomon Islands sawn timber to Aust & NZ

A group of Solomon Islands timber exporters and government officials visited Australia and New Zealand to promote exports of sawn timber. Sources: Scoop News, Timberbiz

The export mission started in Brisbane on 22 – 25 March and moved to Auckland from 25-30 March 2015.

The group met with importers and government officials including a meeting with the New Zealand Timber Importers Association at the Pacific Islands Trade & Invest office in Newmarket.

As 60% of sawn timber is sold to markets in Australia and New Zealand, the visits aimed to increase understanding among exporters and importers of market requirements and opportunities for Solomon Islands sawn timber.

At present, the vast majority of Solomon Islands timber is exported to China as unprocessed round logs, with wide recognition of the unsustainable level of harvesting.

This delegation focused on promoting exports of sawn timber as part of a wider goal of adding value to timber exports.

Sawn timber exports from Solomon Islands are valued at over SBD 80 million or around USD $9.5 million per year and the industry employs more than 1000 people.

The mission was funded by the Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program, as a follow-up to market studies conducted in 2014.

Based on those studies, the Solomon Islands Timber Industry Working Group recognised the need to better understand market requirements in Australia and New Zealand, and made the trade mission a priority.

The eight-member delegation consisted of five private sector timber exporters, two officials from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry and Research and a PHAMA representative.

A key part of the mission centred on importers and exporters exchanging information relating to market requirements for timber legality and quality.

Markets in the EU and the United States have already introduced the requirement to demonstrate the legal origin of imported forestry products.

Australia implemented similar legislation in November 2014, while New Zealand (which currently has a voluntary code of practice) could also follow suit.

Other equally important discussions included opportunities to improve timber quality and presentation, processing and end product requirements, supply, consistency and potential markets for alternative species.

Opportunities for potential collaboration with importers to improve the timber processing quality in Solomon Islands were also examined.

The outcomes from the mission will be shared in the Solomon Islands adding to the development of the timber export industry.

PHAMA is designed to provide practical and targeted assistance to help Pacific island countries manage regulatory aspects associated with exporting primary products (including fresh and processed plant and animal products).

This encompasses gaining access for novel products into new markets, and helping to manage issues associated with maintaining and improving existing trade.

Australia and New Zealand are markets of major interest, along with export markets beyond the Pacific. The core countries assisted through PHAMA include Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.