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German timber industry:

'EU Commission's impractical plans detrimental to domestic companies'

The German timber industry seeks to make a meaningful contribution to combating global deforestation. Nearly a year after the adoption of the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products (EUDR), Brussels still lacks practical guidelines and technically mature solutions for implementing the regulation's objectives. In light of recent plans by the EU Commission to classify Germany as a "standard-risk" location for deforestation, the Hauptverband der Deutschen Holzindustrie (HDH) opposes such classification and the associated burdens. The HDH therefore appeals to the Agriculture Ministers' Conference of the federal and state governments to work towards a practical solution for the EUDR in Brussels.

Contrary to the expectations of many observers and industry experts, the EU Commission plans to classify Germany and other member states under the EUDR as "standard-risk" instead of "low-risk" countries. 'With such a classification, forest and timber companies in Germany would be burdened with unbearable bureaucratic requirements. The requirements for the "standard classification" are comparable to those for high-risk areas. However, there is no deforestation in Germany as defined by the regulation. Moreover, the well-intentioned goal, supported without a doubt by us, of combating global deforestation has been implemented poorly by policymakers,' explains HDH Managing Director Denny Ohnesorge.

HDH Managing Director Denny Ohnesorge.

Implementation issue
As it stands, all German forest owners and the entire downstream value chain must fulfil documentation and due diligence obligations. Instead of reducing bureaucracy, new documentation requirements continue to be added. 'Instead of placing domestic companies and forest owners, who already voluntarily adhere to the highest sustainability standards, in a better position in global competition, they are burdened with ever-increasing proof requirements. From the perspective of the German timber industry, there is primarily no deficit in regulations - the problem lies in implementation. With the new EUDR and the complex documentation requirements, companies and regulatory authorities, down to the state level, face potential overload. Forest owners, as market participants, must enter the geodata of all properties where the wood was produced and other information into an EU database. Downstream timber companies must also enter thousands of records there annually,' warns Ohnesorge.

Federal and state governments are now obligated to ensure a practical implementation of the EU regulation in Brussels. 'With the planned classification of all countries as standard-risk countries, the unrealistic timetable for implementing the EUDR has finally been shattered. The federal government must therefore advocate for an immediate postponement of the introduction of the EUDR at the EU level,' says Lukas Freise, Managing Director of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Rohholz (AGR), which coordinates the EUDR topic within the HDH.

Postponement would also Be in the interest of the federal government
The classification of Germany as a "standard-risk" country in the assessment of deforestation not only lacks any scientific basis but would also impose significant additional reporting obligations on companies. Authorities would also be forced to triple their monitoring efforts compared to a classification as "low-risk." It is not expected that the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, BLE), responsible for monitoring the implementation of the EUDR, as well as the forestry authorities of the federal states, have or will be able to allocate sufficient capacities for this purpose. Therefore, postponing the introduction of the regulation by at least two years would also be in the immediate interest of the federal government. During the additional time gained, deforestation risks worldwide could be identified comprehensively, and technical issues such as the EUDR information platform, which failed during the testing phase, could be resolved.

Ohnesorge: 'The Agriculture Ministers' Conference (AMK) meeting in Berlin at the end of this week must urgently urge the government to act in such a way that the German forestry and timber industry are spared dubious and technically immature regulations. With the current implementation guidelines, it is more likely that imports of questionable origin will increase because sustainably managing forest owners and local companies from Germany will be pushed out of the market due to EU regulations.'

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