Belgian Competent Authority releases Brazilian ipe at Anvers

The SPF, the Belgian EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) Competent Authority, has released what is thought to be up to six containers of Brazilian ipe it was investigating as potentially illegally sourced.

The timber had been held at the port of Anvers since October while the authorities assessed whether it was in   breach of the Regulation.The probe followed expressions of concerns over the cargo, from NGOs, including Greenpeace, which last year alleged widespread illegality in the Brazilian trade in its report The Amazon's Silent Crisis.

However, the joint investigations by the SPF and other Brazilian and Belgian agencies showed the cargo was legally sourced and compliant with the due diligence legaility requirements of the EUTR. Subsequently it was allowed to continue on its journey to the Belgian 'operator' importers for sale on to the open market.

"Contacts were also made with the Belgian importers to check whether these companies had information and credible proof about the legal origin of the wood," said the SPF.

The latter information was forthcoming, added the organisation, and the Brazilian authorities provided detailed sourcing information and details of the checking systems for the timber.

"These confirmed the wood's legality," said the SPF.

During the investigations, however, the Belgian importers decided to cancel further contracts with the timber supplier as other material from the same company was found to be illegal by the Brazilian authorities. In doing so even before the investigation was concluded, said the SPF, they exericised their EUTR due diligence obligations.

The ETTF reported that the Belgian Timber Importers Federation (BFHI) held a special workshop on Brazilian timber legality in November addressed by Brazilian authorities, environmentalist trade monitoring organisation TRAFFIC, the SPFand EUTR Monitoring Organisation NEPCon.

"It was useful for confirming that legality of shipments can only be proven in the ways our importers currently use; by ensuring they have exactly the right documents, verified in exactly the right way," said BFHI General Secretary Bart de Turck.  "TRAFFIC said the only course beyond this was to inspect the source in person, which our importers or their representatives also do."

He added that the BFHI would keep in touch with the Brazilians on the issues.

Belgian Environment Minister Marie-Christine Marghem said that the Belgian government was "was determined to dismantle illegal supply chains".

"We are proud of the cooperation with Brazil and the other European States in this case," she said. "We would like to send a clear signal that the Belgian authorities will cooperate constructively with companies in the sector to clarify the implementation of due diligence, and will not hesitate to take the necessary measures in case of doubt on the legality of wood products.”