Strengthening timber exports with certification

In March 7, 2017

(SB) – Timber exporters are developing a new model that will strengthen the legality of sawn timber exports by working towards third party certification.

The Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) is supported by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA), Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) and the Ministry of Forestry and Research in this programme that plans to engage an international third party auditor to legally verify timber exports.

At the moment timbers get the green light to export by legal verification from the Timber Utilization Division of the Ministry of Forestry and Research.

International timber markets however want more than just a single auditor.

PHAMA identified an appropriate business model that would allow SITPEA to address and undertake third party audit of timber legality.

“Work is now underway to ensure that this is implemented and processes are put it in place for the mechanism to occur within SITPEA,” said SICCI Export Industry Development Officer, Samantha Maeke – who works in collaboration with PHAMA.

“Last year, there had been progression of third party verification systems to comply with identified pending changes in New Zealand’s market access requirements,” she said.

SITPEA has committed its products to the NEPCon LegalSource standard, a well-recognised international standard for legality assurance.

This initiative is in response to overseas timber markets demands and in collaboration with the International Tropical Timber Group of New Zealand.

“After a series of third party legal source trainings, aimed to prepare SITPEA for the actual audit, the next major milestone in this process will be when NEPCon conducts a gap assessment audit in February 2017,” Maeke explained.

“This pre-audit costs about SBD$250,000 and has been borne by the Ministry of Forestry and Research this round.”

Complying with the NEPCon LegalSource standard requires that SITPEA members undergo a rigorous independent audit of their supply chains and operations on an annual basis. There are significant costs associated with such certification.

“To help these costs, SITPEA members have agreed to impose a certification levy of USD$10 per m3 on all their timber exports as of January 1st, 2017.”

This levy will be included in the usual sales invoices of SITPEA member companies.

Timber Quality Improvement

The second action is for SITPEA to improve the quality of sawn timber.

Representatives of SITPEA participated in a timber market mission to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 that confirmed improvements in pre-export drying (e.g. use of kilns or larger inventories of green timber to equilibrate) and processing could result in improvements in pricing returns.

Work on the potential cost of hardware investments as well as the potential benefit of improved finance availability and investment in credit facilities are slowly gaining momentum although both will require further initial investigation.

Building up on this, SITPEA now has a solar kiln drier funded by PHAMA. In October 2016, a demonstration of the solar kiln by Roger Burke of Australian Solar Dryers (manufacturer) was held in Honiara at Value Added Timber Association (VATA).

This was followed by a Solar Kiln Training by Dr Graeme Palmer (Southern Cross University, Australia) who is an expert in timber processing techniques, quality issues and in timber drying and kiln construction.

The training was targeted at demonstration and offering SITPEA an opportunity to learn more about timber drying and operation of the kiln.

Timber Sustainability

The third and also a long-term action plan to maintain SITPEA’s market access is by taking the path of sustainability.

There are various options including: Timber Industry Regulation, Timber Marketing, ensuring Conducive Business Environment and Establishment of National Grading Standards and Systems.

Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) is a member-based organisation with the overarching goals: to champion a sustainable timber industry and promote public private partnership in Solomon Islands.

Working towards operating independently, SITPEA, registered under the Solomon Islands Charitable Trust Act, was officially set up in September 2015. With an estimate of 12 paid members, SITPEA was formed with the support of Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) and the Ministry of Forests and Research (MOFR) – a classical display of public-private partnership

Strengthening timber exports with certification.  Available from <http://www.solomonstarnews.com/news/business/12335-strengthening-timber-exports-with-certification> [Published: 22 February 2017]    
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