Russia may yet ban timber exports to Estonia

  • 2002-01-31
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Estonian timber importers breathed sighs of relief after a Russian customs committee pulled back - at least temporarily - from banning Russian exporters from sending timber to Estonia.

"The Russian customs committee sent us a fax, which said that the introduction of the regulation had been postponed until March 15, 2002," said Mart Riistop, vice director of the Estonian Forest Industries Association.

"I can't say what will happen afterwards. We haven't received any formal explanations."

On Dec. 29 last year the committee produced a list of 107 border checkpoints from Finland to the Far East through which Russian timber could be exported by road and rail. Estonia's three border crossings with Russia were not included.

The list was due to take effect on Jan. 28, 30 days after its publication. Riistop told The Baltic Times he did not know whether Estonia's omission from the list had been accidental or intentional.

Estonia's Foreign Ministry had received no reply from Russia to its inquiries into the matter, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tiina Maiberg.

"A ban on Russian timber exports would have a significant impact on Estonia's economy," said Riistop.

In 2001, 350,000 cubic meters of timber and 289,000 cubic meters of sawed timber were imported from Russia, or a fifth of the total amount of timber and sawed timber used by Estonian companies. According to Riistop, sawed timber from Russia is comparatively cheap, while unprocessed timber is more expensive. An alternative to importing Russian timber by road and rail would be to import it by sea or via Latvia, but neither option would be good for Estonian businesses.

"Road transport through Latvia would extend the trip by another 400 to 500 kilometers, which is time consuming and costly," said Riistop.

"Prams on the other hand move in summer time only, but wood is cut in winter."