because of a change in nomenclature, importers of exotic wood say they are “in danger”

because of a change in nomenclature, importers of exotic wood say they are “in danger”
because of a change in nomenclature, importers of exotic wood say they are “in danger”
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hundreds of thousands of euros, or even more, for a question of interpretation of “rounded corners”. This is the consequence of a change in nomenclature to which the main exotic wood trading companies must comply since 2023 and which should soon concern all those who import terrace boards.

It begins as a Belgian story. On April 15, 2021, seized by Belgium, the European Court of Justice issued a judgment against the company Vogel Import Export, affirming that “the planed wooden boards, the four corners of which have been slightly rounded over the entire length of the board, should not be considered as profiled. Hence a change in classification of these goods, from “heading 4409 to heading 4407”, which was used by the customs administration to control French traders. The difference is due to a few paragraphs, but also and above all to higher taxation: 2% customs duties on the main species of wood sold (ipé, padauk, sucupira, massaranduba, etc.).

Taken by surprise, French professionals denounced the “deficiencies” of the Vogel judgment, applied “indistinctly and without discernment”. In particular the “confusion” between “primary processing products which are raw or simply planed wooden boards (4407) and the processed products (4409) which are terrace boards, whatever their profiles (smooth or grooved) and the radius of the rounding does not matter.


The Pallice commercial port in La Rochelle is one of the leading French ports importing exotic wood along with Le Havre, Marseille and Dunkirk.

Frédéric Zabalza / South West

The government’s “objectives”

In 2023, a first French trading company receives a visit from customs officers, who come to see that the terrace boards do not meet the correct nomenclature. The checks continue within the fifteen member companies of the national professional association Le Commerce du bois (LCB), some of which are being asked for more than a million euros.

The Pallice commercial port in La Rochelle is one of the leading French ports importing exotic wood.

Among them, the Atlantic Company of Imported Wood (Sabi) and the Atlantic Company of Wood and Derivatives (CABD). Located at the Pallice commercial port in La Rochelle, one of the leading French ports importing exotic wood along with Le Havre, Marseille and Dunkirk, they employ around twenty people. The administration is therefore demanding from Sabi (17 million turnover) the payment of more than 450,000 euros. Summoned to the Regional Customs Directorate in Poitiers on April 10, the manager, Sébastien Guiraud, chose to be represented by his lawyer.

“We are potentially committing fraud,” explains the boss, who sees it as a state design. In fact, it is very interesting for customs, because we automatically enter into the government’s objectives in terms of tax adjustment on imports, which can go up to one time the value of the goods. »

“A major financial risk”

“We are dead”, estimates Alexandre Boutrot, boss of the CABD, from whom customs are asking nearly 200,000 euros. “Even without the fraud, the simple fact of asking us for 2% on customs duties over five years (2019 to 2023) is enough to put the entire sector at risk. Especially in an already difficult period, when our companies are recognized, engaged in all environmental initiatives, in port management. Moreover, the other countries, from Denmark to Italy via Spain, remain in ranking 4409.”

“Importers are not the only ones threatened,” warns Sébastien Guiraud. We must clearly see that this will have an impact on the entire French wood industry. Industrial joinery (terraces, windows, shutters, etc.) will no longer be powered. » In a letter addressed on April 12 to the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, the president of LCB François Laresche mentioned “a major financial risk with disastrous human consequences for our companies”. The association calls for an end to the controls and expresses the wish to engage in “a constructive dialogue” with the general directorate of customs and indirect rights “to get out of this impasse”. LCB, like each controlled company, reserves the right to counter-attack in court.

In Charente-Maritime, around ten companies are threatened with recovery. With the support of the director of the Grand Maritime Port of La Rochelle Michel Puyrazat, they requested an interview with the prefect Brice Blondel.

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