INTERNATIONAL STANDARD FOR SOLID WOOD PACKING MATERIAL (SWPM)
For many years we have recognised that packing material and dunnage presents the highest risk of spread of pests and we have been pressing for the development of an international quarantine standard under the auspices of the FAO Interim Commission for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM). Following the publicity surrounding the establishment of Asian Longhorn Beetle in the USA, further pressures resulted in the formation of a panel of experts (two from each of the 9 Regional Plant Protection Organisations around the world) to draft such a standard. The Forestry Commission's Head of Plant Health is one of the two delegates representing the EPPO (European & Mediterranean region). At the last meeting, in February, the Panel agreed a final text and this will be submitted to the International Standards Committee in May before being distributed to all WTO (World Trade Organisation) countries for consultation before, hopefully, being adopted in April 2002. The Panel's aim was to identify treatments that can be applied to all types of wood, regardless of origin, and which can be regarded as effective against a wide range of harmful organisms and which can be verified by physical checks, rather than through documentary requirements.
Only one treatment was identified for classification as a 'general measure': heat treatment to a minimum of 56oC for 30 minutes. Other treatments were identified as suitable 'alternative measures' , that may be used by prior agreement between importing and exporting countries. Fumigation or debarking were included in this category. Chemical Pressure Impregnation (CPI) was also recognised as a potential general measure but the Panel was unable to uncover any efficacy data to show that CPI is effective at eliminating quarantine pests (insect, nematode and fungi) present at the time of treatment. If such data becomes available then CPI will be promoted to the general category. Until then it will remain listed in the 'other measures' section.
The draft Standard, copies of which are freely available from the Plant Health Service, was circulated among industry for comment last July. A joint FC/Industry Working Group has also been set up to advise on the practicality of the Standard and to consider the best means of implementing it after adoption. Here, as in other countries, there is ready recognition of the problem and the need to address it. However, concerns have been expressed at the availability of kiln drying capacity to meet demand.
The Forestry Commission is working with a panel of experts which is drawing up Quarantine Guidelines for SWPM. These will recommend treatments that can be implemented globally to prevent the spread of any one of the many pests that threaten our trees and woodlands. It is likely that the Guidelines will feature the treatments contained in the EC Decision. Once these have been adopted, possibly by May 2002, the European Commission will review its Decision and is expected to update it to bring into line with the Guidelines. We are consulting with trade associations with an interest in this area so that we can take account of their views as this work progresses.
What do you need to do? We recommend that you make sure that everyone you deal with who might be affected by these changes is made aware of them in good time. The Forestry Commission will be consulting with the trade, HM Customs and Excise, and others, to work out how best to implement the new measures with the minimum of interference with trade. We will need to make an amendment to our legislation and this will be announced in due course.