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Post-Brexit trade rules mean that all wooden pallets carrying goods between the UK and EU must now be heat treated and certified in accordance with ISPM15 regulations to avoid being rejected at the borders. This coupled with the dwindling availability of timber and continuing price rise of wooden pallets is causing a major headache for firms. Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of Goplasticpallets.com explains.
Prior to January, the humble wooden pallet was a regular traveller – free to move between the UK and EU without restriction. But then came the Brexit trade agreement, which eradicated the free movement of wood packaging.
New rules for wooden pallets
All wooden pallets, crates and boxes moving in either direction between the UK and EU must now be kiln-dried and heat-treated to at least 56OC for half an hour, then stamped to prove they meet global ISPM15 safety standards. These regulations for monitoring wood packaging material in international trade were first introduced in 2002 to tackle the cross-border spread of harmful bugs and diseases, but until now wooden pallets entering or exiting the UK were exempt.
The UK government has issued a stark warning, saying firms that fail to comply with the new rules could see their wood packaging rejected or destroyed at Britain’s borders, forcing hauliers to make alternative arrangements for transporting their halted goods.
Firms exporting from Britain to the EU face similar rules, as do exporters sending freight from mainland Britain into Northern Ireland, despite the UK waiving the restrictions in the opposite direction.
Enforcement of new rules
Although we have not yet heard of any goods on wooden pallets being seized at the borders, other Brexit stories making the headlines suggest it could only be a matter of time.
Just a couple of months ago we saw France banning lorry drivers from crossing the Channel to try and stop the spread of the new UK strain of the coronavirus. Then Germany followed suit in February closing its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria over a troubling surge in coronavirus mutations.
In the UK’s fishing industry, a small but specialist group of fishermen have been left devastated after new rules have been enforced for exporting certain types of shellfish, which were not part of the original EU agreement; for some fishermen, this could completely destroy their livelihood.1
It’s stories like these that demonstrate the EU does not act as a united front, but rather different countries have the freedom to choose whether or not to implement legislation and are also free to impose new rules of their own. So, at any time, one EC country could just choose to implement ISPM15 – that’s a scary thought!
Wooden pallet price hike
For the wood packaging industry, the new ISPM15 rules are a further blow after a troublesome year which has seen continued pressure on the availability and price of timber; some suppliers have increased the price of new wooden pallets by as much as 18% since January. The latest statement from TIMCON, the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation, suggests there are even tougher times ahead with prices of timber pallets and packaging expected to increase further and remain high for some time.2
For wooden pallet’s greatest rival – the plastic pallet – the last year has been far more positive.
Plastic pallets for exports
Last November at Goplasticpallets.com, we reported a surge in plastic pallet sales for exports – up 20% in comparison to the same period last year. Plastic pallets are of course exempt from ISPM15 heat treatment requirements, offering a more durable and completely hassle-free option for exporting goods. Whilst the cost of wooden pallets continues to rise, the price of our plastic pallets remains consistent across our extensive range.
If there was ever a good time to review the shipping platform you use for exporting your goods, now is that time!