Legal Burmese Teak for Decking
What makes Burmese teak legal?
FACT: Organizations such as INTERPOL, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the European Commission take an active interest in the legality of international shipments of wood, including Burmese teak used for decking.
Why is wood really so important?
“Worth an estimated $51 – $152 billion annually, the illegal timber industry simultaneously threatens the world’s forests and steal from local communities that rely on forests for food, health, and wealth. The corruption associated with illegal logging weakens the rule of law and fuels the cycle of transnational crime.
“By degrading biodiversity and forests’ economic value, forest exploitation also makes land even more vulnerable to deforestation for other uses. The continuously growing demand for commodities that require large land areas – including soy, palm oil, and beef – drives tropical deforestation, of which nearly half is illegal. Deforestation and converting forested lands to grow other commodities or raise livestock contributes nearly 1.5 gigatons of carbon annually, about the equivalent of Russia’s annual emissions.
“The USAID offices of Forestry and Biodiversity and Global Climate Change regularly engage with stakeholder forums, such as Forest Legality Week, to better understand the link between illegality, corruption, and deforestation. This work provides USAID Missions across the globe with programming tools to enhance sustainable landscapes.”
Reference: Houston, J. (2020) Illegal Logging and Deforestation, Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/biodiversity/illegal-logging-and-deforestation
TDS Commitment to Legal Teak
Teakdecking Systems (TDS) regularly engages in similar forums worldwide to ensure that we only offer high quality, milled, legal Burmese teak. So, we do the following:
- Attend the Forest Legality Week program in Washington, D.C.
- Visit Myanmar to attend meetings focused on improving the Myanmar Timber Legality Assurance System (MTLAS)
- Monitor and communicate regularly with the authorities in Europe that regulate their trade of wood products
Determining a teak shipment’s legality is not a simple task and must be done with diligence and seriousness. Further, a full understanding of the laws and regulations in Myanmar (the country of origin) and the U.S. or Europe (the destination of every shipment) is necessary. Many of the requirements are contained in “Regulations,” which seem to be open to honest interpretation.
Note, TDS is committed not only to obey the laws at the minimum level but rather meets and exceeds the “spirit of the law” through exercising exceptional care in assessing legality in every shipment.
Burmese Teak Shipments & Documentation
Laws governing teak shipments in Myanmar currently require that only sawn timber can be shipped out of the country; no raw logs can legally leave national boundaries. So, TDS also knows that all shipments must leave through the Port of Yangon by ship. TDS is quite careful not to purchase teak from any country that shares a land border with Myanmar. This prevents the risk of purchasing from an unethical dealer. Easily, these dealers might break the law and “steal” logs by trucking them overland, across the border.
By law, every natural teak tree growing in Myanmar is the property of the national government. This means that legal Burmese teak can only be obtained through the proper government source. Full documentation states the following:
- The forest where the logs were harvested
- The sawmill where those logs were delivered and cut
- Certification that the correct taxes and revenue fees were paid to the national government
Many of these documents are written in the Burmese language. We admire its beauty but cannot read it, so we also employ a third-party validation service. It is headquartered in Southeast Asia with staff members fluent in the Burmese language.
The above actions allow a greater understanding of the legal conditions in Myanmar. But in an international transaction that is only part of the battle. Additionally, we must fully understand the regulations where we have operations, both the US Lacey Act and the European Union Timber Regulation.
Our team takes training classes so that we accurately apply the regulations in the U.S. Further, we always monitor communications from the EU Expert’s Group, the comments and suggestions of active environmental groups, and direct communication with specific authorities in European countries.
At this time, we believe it is critically important to use Burmese teak in Europe that has been first placed in the EU market by a national importer whose teak supply has been checked by its national authorities and found to be acceptable.
Progress in Myanmar
Finally, we applaud the Forestry Department professionals in Myanmar for efforts to reduce annual logging limits and strive to repair the damage in the productive forests in their country. An important measure of this effort is located in the reported Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) that determines the amount of teak harvested in the forest.
In the past decade, this AAC level dropped to 60,000 trees per year, down to 15,000 per year, to 0 in 2016, to 5,000 last year, and now 3,500 for 2020-2021. Clearly, the authorities in Myanmar are taking this challenge to rebuild their teak forests very seriously.
In the meantime, thousands of working timber elephants have become “unemployed.” TDS is stepping in, with our support to The Nature Conservancy, to help provide funds for teak reforestation and care and provision for these marvelous working elephants. We invite readers to participate with us in this excellent adventure!
These thorough and responsible actions are done by TDS do not make our teak less expensive. In fact, it is quite the opposite. But value is not determined solely by price. Being committed to sustainability means we service our customers today – and our customer’s children tomorrow. Ensuring a legal supply of teak, to the highest standards, is the foundation for ensuring teak is a natural resource for generations to come.
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