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UK trade gap between goods exports and imports narrows in 2013

14 Mar 2014

shipping pallets

It is welcome news for the economy that the gap between imports and exports has been reduced to its smallest for six months. ONS data has shown that the manufacture of transport equipment was one of the biggest contributors to the increase in exports. While the balance of trade has implications for the overall economic stability of the country, it also has direct impacts on the businesses involved in the process and logistics of exporting, and not just on those primary companies growing through the export of their products.

When the reduction in the balance of trade deficit is due to a rise in the volume of exports, it is good for businesses related to the exporting process itself, such as those that facilitate the export process. These include packaging and pallet manufacturers. While there will be many rules and regulations around actual goods being exported and imported, there is equally stringent guidance around the exporting and importing of the pallets and packaging carrying the goods. There are specific guidelines relating to wooden packaging and therefore wooden pallets.

Regulations for Wood Packaging

The regulations for wooden packaging include ISPM15, which relates to the treatment of wood to eliminate and therefore control the spread of plant-based pests and disease. ISPM stands for the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures. The 15 references a specific publication number which deals with the regulations for wood packaging material. ISPM15 regulations are controlled by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which is part of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Wood packaging materials which fall under the regulations include coniferous softwood when used in its raw wood form for packaging, and they also include non-coniferous hardwood when that is used in its raw form. However, manufactured wood products such as plywood or forms of reconstituted wood such as particle board and high-density fibre board are exempt from the regulations, as too are wood-based materials which are manufactured using heat, pressure or glue.

Standards to Meet Regulations

The reason for the manufactured wood-based products being exempt is due to the processes they go through which eliminate the possibility of plant pests or diseases surviving from the original wood. Raw wood packaging materials therefore must undergo a form of treatment to provide the same safeguards. Treatments can involve the heat treatment of the wood, or the wood can be fumigated in a process using methyl bromide. Packaging made using treated wood materials must carry the approved mark which guarantees the item’s safety, so a manufacturer of heat treated pallets would furnish a label marked with HT (amongst other regulatory information) and a manufacturer using the methyl bromide option would be marked with MB.

Double Bonus

When UK companies are able to export more, there is a positive direct knock-on effect for companies that manufacture packaging materials or that treat wood for packaging materials, not to mention those involved in the transportation of the goods for export. The rise in the level of exports can therefore be seen as a double win for UK businesses.

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