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Transition to new standards for forest timber assortments

FIRMA is a five-year, $20 million project that began in September 2009 and is funded by USAID and Sida. The purpose of the project is to support enterprise competitiveness in selected value chains of the tourism, wood, and light manufacturing sectors of BiH, in the process advancing the country’s ability to meet the Copenhagen Economic Criteria for accession to the European Union. To support sustainability, the project works primarily through a group of key local implementing partners, known as the “FIRMA Consortium”, who cover all regions of the country.

The goals of USAID and Sida for FIRMA are ambitious and transformational, and therefore require wide impact – in product design and quality, in ways of connecting to markets, in expertise of workforce, and in investment attractiveness. FIRMA's strategy is directed toward these systemic objectives.

The FIRMA workplan is defined at the private sector value chain level. Implementing partners, called “Value Chain Facilitators” (VCFs), organise stakeholders first to identify and prioritise competitiveness obstacles through value chain analysis, and then to originate and manage discrete activities to address these obstacles. FIRMA supervises and supports these activities, providing strategic and operational guidance, expert technical assistance, and grants from its $3 million Small Grants Fund. In order to maximise scale and impact, FIRMA works closely with other donors and local government agencies that provide development assistance programs consistent with FIRMA's objectives – so-called “collaborating implementers”.

FIRMA is implemented by Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd. (Arlington, VA), with several consortium subcontractors and 12 regional and local economic development agencies in BiH. As a subcontractor, ORGUT carried out consulting services to FIRMA specifically within the wood value chain. The Wood Processing Sector support improvements of value-added wood products in product design, product quality and safety, application of up-to date technologies to enable efficient, flexible, and exact product fabrications, and workforce skills and capabilities.

ORGUT has carried out a study on transition to new standards for forest timber assortments including developing an Action Plan with measures and actions to increase implementation of the standards by the industry. This included conducting a comparative analysis of JUS and BAS EN standards for forest timber assortments in order to determine the gaps and differences between the two standards which have to be addressed; and identifying obstacles to the implementation of the BAS EN standards.

The current standards for forest timber assortments in BiH, the Yugoslav standards – JUS, were completed and entered into effect in 2007. They were mandatory standards that applied to all of the ex-Yugoslav Republics, including Bosnia. Those standards were developed for mass exploitation of forests in the Yugoslav vertically integrated forest based sector and former types of assortment processing and usage and included: felling, production, circulation, distribution and primary processing of timber.

With time the JUS standards became complicated and were difficult to apply and in some segments are now dysfunctional. As a result they have not been fully applied for a number of years in in a number of cases the quality of produced timber assortments do not correspond to any formal standard. Without any standards being applied, delivered forest timber assortments usually conform to some estimated average quality, which is determined ad hoc on the basis of assumed experience or on a basis of expected middle forest wood assortments quality, based on preliminary technical classification settled in the tree marking-for-felling phase. This system obviously results in estimation mistakes, is non-transparent and is poorly controlled. It makes room for fraud and corruption, unfortunately in most cases at the expense of forests and the forestry industry.

Market demands require that forestry assortments are in conformance with international norms. The most common and logical practice for countries is to simply take over international and European standards, harmonizing national standards with international standards. This is what BiH is doing, and the Institute for Standardization of BiH (BAS) Technical Committee 42 has, in accordance with ISO/IEC and CEN/CENELEC recommendations, prepared and published most of the EN/ISO standards for timber and timber products. After being published in the BAS Official Gazette, these standards became valid and can be used, but their usage is not mandatory.

The harmonized standards are not being implemented mainly because JUS standards are still in force and because the two standards provide conflicting requirements for round wood sorting systems, making it impossible to apply both the mandatory standards of JUS and the voluntary EN/ISO standards. Apart from that, businesses also fear that the introduction of new standards could lead to increased costs for their businesses as well as disturbances to their business operations. One of the first steps to undertake is to increase the awareness among forestry and wood processing industry groups, that the new standard system is a better solution for their current problems

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