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India asks EU to ease timber regulation

A week after the European Union (EU) implemented its new timber sourcing regulation, which is likely to hit the Indian woodware industry -- a major contributor to handicraft exports, India Wednesday said its implementation should be based on the practicality of existing systems within the country so as to achieve the intended results.

"India's wood industry is largely in the unorganised sector even as we are one of the biggest exporters of wood products to the Europe," Sumanta Chaudhuri, joint secretary, Commerce and Industry Ministry, told a roundtable meeting of a EU delegation in India.

"We would rather prefer reinventing our foreign trade mechanism in this sector than going for a complete overhaul of the system." 

The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), which came into force on April 3, requires importers and traders of timber products in all the 27 member-states to ensure that the imported wood has been sourced legally from the country of harvest.

According to experts, the EUTR envisages that those European wood product importers who source from India for the first time are required to exercise "due diligence" to minimise timber entering in the supply chain.

The wood industry on the other hand said that the new regulation would inevitably affect Indian exporters of wood products to Europe, as there is still lack of awareness among exporters about the EUTR.

"The purpose is noble. But then the same set of laws would not work in all the (timber exporting) countries," Chaudhuri said at the inaugural session of the day-long event convened in the capital by the European Forest Institute (EFI) in association with Chemicals & Allied Products Export Promotion Council, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH). 

The EUTR comes at a time when India's exports of plywood and wooden handicrafts to Europe had logged remarkable rise in 2012-13 compared the year-ago period, he added.

A recent report exposed up to 30 per cent of the global timber supply is illegal, evidence that illegal logging requires a unified response from the initial producer all the way through to final consumer.