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Tracking timber through the supply chain: Pt 1

Supplier: Matthews Australasia
19 August, 2014

Much of the illegal timber trade is in Australia's backyard.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates illegal logging in Indonesia represents 73 per cent of log production. This is just one of the world's top three largest tropical timber suppliers (the others are similarly affected).

Some other startling statistics include: the FAO also estimates 90 per cent of wood used in Indonesia's pulp and paper industry comes from native forests; in 2000, the USA imported more than US$450m worth of timber from Indonesia; while the European Union imports some US$1.5b in stolen tropical timber each year. And up to half Russia's timber production is thought to be illegally harvested.

One way to prevent illegal logging might be to track timber from its very origins: the forest. A bit like having traceability for ingredients or components of manufactured goods.

Australia introduced legislation in 2012 that affected timber mills, so it's important to know, in a practical sense, how Australian importers and mills can track timber from the time it's felled. Or before. 

Two ways are:

  • RFID (some German testing has proven interesting)
  • Actually barcoding forests

But despite the legislation, there's a bit missing. One of the parties working on this is GS1's hardware group. For instance, adopting the GS1 standards of numbering, barcoding, eMessaging and Electronic Data Synchronisation is improving business efficiency and effectiveness right through the chain. Trade item identification has particularly improved in the past 2.5 years.

Most likely there'll be reliance on a bit of manual input unless we can build a clear business case that stacks up for all parties. And there is certainly an opportunity to do something in that area.

You can read the complete article here.

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