With more than $20 billion at stake, Canadian companies exporting products offshore should ensure the wooden pallets and crates used to transport them will meet the new international U.N. standards for pest control, or else their shipment could be turned away at the port of entry, warns the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association .
While the U.N. Standard is not expected to come into force in April 2002, the European Union has jumped the gun and will implement emergency rules for softwood solid wood packing material on October 1, 2001.
"It is therefore necessary for companies to notify their pallet supplier of the destination of their products, so that the supplier knows whether to provide them with material that meets the international specifications or domestic use", explains Brian Butler, President of Butler and Baird Lumber Ltd., a manufacturer of wooden boxes and crates.
Butler says "if wood packaging material used for offshore exports does not comply with the U.N. standards, it can be destroyed or cross-docked where the product is loaded onto domestic pallets and the shipper forced to pay the costs. It also can be fumigated on site, which the export shipper would have to pay for," he adds.
These new international specifications do not apply to shipments going to the United States or Mexico, which accounts for 85% of Canada’s exports.
Butler, who represented the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association at the U.N. International Standards Meeting in Mexico this February, says an international standard is necessary because with rapidly expanding world trade there is widespread concern that wooden pallets and containers are carrying destructive insects and pests.
There have already been a number of reported cases of insect infestation in wood pallets from Third World countries, where environmental considerations have not been of high priority.
Wood packing material is made from low-grade lumber, which usually receives little attention and treatment in these third world countries to remove or destroy pests that are in raw wood. They thus become pathways for the introduction and spread of pests. This problem is now being experienced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the Asian brown beetle and the Asian Longhorn beetle have been discovered.
To eliminate infestation, the U.N. has proposed that all hardwood and softwood lumber pallets, crates, and containers used for exports, be heat-treated to a core temperature of 56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
The heat-treated wooden material would then have to be marked with a stamp which certifies that it has been subjected to the minimum requirement of heat treatment which will meet the general measures of the international standard.
There are three distinct processes which meet the new standard. They are heat treatment, kiln drying with heat treatment, and chemical impregnation with heat treatment.
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