Wood packaging update

by Christian Siviere

There is a misconception among some Canadian exporters about an obligation to use ISPM 15 treated wood packaging materials when exporting to the United States.

This may have been triggered by a notice circulating last June saying that the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was ending the ISPM 15 exemption for Canadian wood packaging material effective July 2014. Several Canadian companies implemented this right away and began using more expensive, treated wood, when shipping to the US.

However, this ‘notice’ was incorrect, the measure was not put in place and our mutual exemption with the US is still in effect, as can be verified on the CFIA’s website.

Most countries around the world adopted the ISPM 15 regulations for wood packaging material (WPM) several years ago and both Canada and the United States implemented them in 2005. However, we have a mutual exemption for trade between our two countries, so when we import products from the US and when we export our products to the US, we are not required to use ISPM treated wood packaging material.

So long as the wood originates in either country, it is recommended to include a statement to that effect on commercial documents: ‘‘The wood packing material contained in this shipment is of Canadian origin’’ or ‘The wood packaging material is derived from trees grown and harvested in Canada”.

Of course, if the WPM used is not of Canadian or of US origin, for example if we use recycled crates or pallets originating from other countries, then they have to be made from ISPM 15 treated wood, marked and documented accordingly.

Introduced by the International Plant Protection Convention, these measures aim to protect forests from infestation by pests and disease. The ISPM15 regulations require wood packaging material more than 6mm thick to be debarked and treated, either by heat treatment (HT) or fumigation with methyl bromide (MB). This applies to pallets, crates and dunnage used to secure cargo in the shipping vehicle.

Packaging made from plywood or particle board is exempt since it is heated during the manufacturing process. Packages must bear an internationally recognized stamp identifying the country of origin, the certification number of the supplier and the type of treatment. Some countries also require a certificate confirming the treatment.

Although our exemption with the US is still in effect, it is good to start preparing ourselves for the day when it will be lifted. At that time, we can expect an official announcement from both the CFIA and the APHIS, giving industry enough notice to ensure that trade impacts from the implementation are minimized.