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EU Pallet Industry Leaders Consider New Phytosanitary Requirements
European Updated: EU leaders discuss requiring ISPM-15 certification for intra-Europe pallet shipments to prevent the further spread of wood pests.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 12/1/2012

                Pallet industry leaders from across Europe recently gathered at the annual European Federation of Wooden Pallet and Packaging Manufacturers (FEFPEB) Congress held in Valencia, Spain. The meeting included a tour of two plants and a long program of informational sessions. The Congress visited Aglolak (producer of wooden pallets) and Serraenvas (wood light weight packaging manufacturer). More than 200 people gathered to discuss the theme “Transport with wood; packaging from nature.” One of the key issues covered was the possibility of requiring all solid wood packaging material moving within the EU zone to be treated according to ISPM-15. 

                Pest outbreaks in Portugal and Spain, especially the pinewood nematode, have raised alarms about the intra-continental spread of wood pests. European officials are taking the risk seriously. They are even discussing the possibility of removing the ISPM-15 exemption for all pallets and solid wood packaging material (WPM) moving within the EU zone.

                José Antonio González Martin, director general of forest and plant health for Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, commented Spain has taken extensive efforts to restrict the further spread of the pinewood nematode in Spain. Currently, there are 952 registered companies and 401 heat treatment facilities in the Spanish ISPM-15 program.

                Roman Vágner, plant health administrator for the European Commission in Brussels, updated the industry on the latest plant health regulations. He stressed that the priority is prevention to stop the spread of the pinewood nematode across Europe. FEFPEB and government officials are working together to ensure that the response is both balanced and practical.

                A study was commissioned to examine the impacts of various treatment requirements and strategies for requiring ISPM-15 compliance for pallets and WPM moved within the EU zone. Lucia Russo, a consultant with Agra CEAS, gave a summary of the study that looked at the economic, environmental and social factors. The study also considered the impact of requiring kiln drying for pallets. This has arisen as an issue because some previous pest studies identified that moist pallets are at risk for cross-infestation with the pinewood nematode. 

                The study found that the best solution would be to require mandatory implementation of ISPM-15 inside the EU for new and repaired pallets by January 2015. This approach would exempt circulating pallets that are not repaired. Other options included requiring all pallets be treated and marked including those that have been in circulation for years. This would have presented a challenge from a cost and enforcement perspective as well as offered little additional protection for the added expense.

                Regardless of which option is implemented, it is important for the EU zone to develop a harmonized approach, including a repair standard. Will the EU require that all repaired pallets be completely re-treated and marked? Or will the EU allow pallets to be repaired with heat treated boards? These details have yet to be worked out.

                Some areas of Europe are already lobbying for special consideration. TIMCON, the UK pallet association, has asked for the UK to be exempt John Dye, president of TIMCON, said to Packaging Europe, “The UK is an island, and we believe a significant proportion of the movement of timber pallets and packaging manufactured here remains in the country. We therefore believe a dispensation is justified, and we will be lobbying hard to have this recognized when ISPM-15 regulations are reviewed.”

                Any changes to the EU rules are likely a year or more from being adopted. But it will be interesting to see if concerns over the pinewood nematode cause the EU zone to institute stricter regulations. This is similar to how concerns over the emerald ash borer have led to talks to end the cross border exemption between the United States and Canada.


Consider Attending the Next International Meeting in Europe

                The next International Pallet Congress will take place October 16-18, 2013 in Bordeaux, France, in conjunction with the 64th FEFPEB Congress. For more information visit, www.fefpeb.org. 

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