New e-learning course for safer trade in forest commodities

Highlights key role of pest prevention and phytosanitary measures for international trade in forest products

9 April 2013, Rome - A new free online course is helping to ensure safe international trade by highlighting the important role of phytosanitary measures in cross-border trade of forest products.  The course was developed by FAO, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat and other partners.

"The course is a very practical tool for exporters and importers. It provides a checklist of the steps they need to take to comply with phytosanitary standards before entering foreign markets," said FAO Forestry Officer Gillian Allard. "It should also help strengthen communication between forestry officials, national plant protection organizations and the private sector."

The global production value for wood and furniture is worth $900 billion per year, with an export value of $200 billion, according to FAO. It is of global importance that internationally traded wood- and non-wood forest products are free from pests.  

The e-learning course, "Trade in forest commodities and the role of phytosanitary measures," provides information on the geographic distribution of important forest pests and outlines pest-related risks for every type of product, by country.

Pest threats exacerbated by international trade

Pests covered include ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) which is currently causing massive tree deaths in the United Kingdom and much of Europe; the blue-gum chalcid (Leptocybe invasa), which for the past decade has been spreading throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Near East; and the pinewood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus) which was introduced from North America into Asia and Europe.

Control costs for the pinewood nematode in Portugal alone were €24 million between 2001 and 2009. Japan annually spends around €10 million to control this pest, which is suspected to spread via wood packaging materials and untreated roundwood and sawnwood.

Easy to use

The course is presented in clear, simple language and is easy to navigate. It contains five modules covering everything from the possible threats to forest health associated with international trade to what information is needed to safely import/export forest products.

The course is based on the successful Guide to implementation of phytosanitary standards in forestry which was published by FAO's Forestry Department in 2011 with input from the IPPC Secretariat and a range of global experts on forestry and phytosanitary issues. Prior to release it was piloted in Zimbabwe.

The course was launched during the 8th Session of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), IPPC's governing body, which taking place at FAO headquarters in Rome (8-12 April).   

Photo: © Bohne
Asian longhorned beetle emerging from a tree.