17 November 2016
A Swedish court has ruled that a company importing teak from Myanmar is in breach of the EU’s illegal logging law, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
This sets an important precedent and could have a major impact on EU countries’ efforts to halt deforestation linked to illegal timber trade.
The EUTR requires companies placing timber on the EU market to carry out due diligence, that is collecting information on their timber supplies, and assessing the risk that the timber has been logged illegally.
Timber should only be placed on the market in the EU if the risk of it being illegal is extremely low.
ClientEarth lawyer Diane de Rouvre said:
“This case confirms that the EUTR requires full traceability of the timber supply chain. Companies which place timber on the EU market, but do not have enough information about the full supply chain and the exact origin of the timber, are breaching this important illegal logging law.”
The Swedish company importing teak from Myanmar is called Almtra Nordic. In a recent report, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) pointed out that this company could not have met the EUTR’s due diligence requirement, because of weak forest governance in Myanmar.
EIA then submitted a complaint to the Swedish Forest Agency (in charge of enforcing the EUTR in Sweden), which fined Almtra Nordic. It required the company to stop selling timber imported from Myanmar until it could properly assess and mitigate the risk of illegality.
The Swedish court agreed with this decision and found that the teak importer was in breach of the EUTR. Almtra Nordic could only trace its supplies back to the state-managed Myanmar Timber Enterprise, but not to exactly where the imported timber had been harvested or by whom.
In doing so, the Swedish court showed that an EU company importing timber supplied by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise cannot meet the EUTR’s due diligence requirement if it relies solely on official documentation provided.
This ruling should set an important precedent for the enforcement of the EU Timber Regulation.
The EUTR, which entered into force in 2013, aims to stop illegally harvested timber and timber products from being placed on the EU market.
Other cases related to Myanmar timber are expected to follow, as complaints have already been submitted in other EU countries. In light of this ruling, further enforcement actions related to other high-risk countries now seem more likely.