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The Russian Baltic Birch Dilemma: Seeking Viable Alternatives

On February 24, 2022, the world watched with bated breath as Russia began its aggressive invasion of Ukraine resulting in thousands of deaths and displaced civilians. As the war wages on over a year later, the international community has responded in solidarity with Ukraine, imposing heavy sanctions on Russian exports, one of which is the globally popular product, Russian Baltic birch.

In the construction and furniture industry, birch harvested from Russian forests is often used in floors, ceilings, and partitions, as well as for decorative purposes. Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, North America imported 20 million cubic feet of Russian Baltic birch plywood in 2021 alone but following the sanctions imposed by both Canada and the US, builders, craftspeople, architects, and designers are now searching for viable alternatives.

Reports from The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) indicate that Russian Baltic birch is still being imported into North America through southeast Asia to avoid paying duties. This severely undermines government efforts to penalize Russia and risks companies’ Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications, which Russian timber no longer holds.

Garnica, a world leader in premium plywood, renowned for its eco-friendly certifications and sustainable focus, offers the ideal alternative with its line of Reinforced plywood. This product rivals Russian Baltic birch plywood in terms of strength and durability, but with the added benefit of being roughly 10% lighter and sustainably sourced and produced in Europe. Garnica plywood has received numerous recognitions that demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices including a silver medal in EcoVadis, an ISO 14001 certification and their ongoing participation in the Global Compact. All Garnica products are subject to rigorous manufacturing processes, which ensure that each panel is of the highest quality and consistency.

Manufacturers, carpenters and designers who are accustomed to using Russian Baltic birch are always impressed when they compare it to Garnica plywood which does not warp nor bend under pressure. In terms of strength, durability, and uniformity, Garnica products are a viable alternative to Russian Baltic birch and there is also a steady and reliable supply available in North America. Their Reinforced plywood line is highly versatile and each variation serves a unique purpose, from decorative to load-bearing appliances.

By opting for non-Russian plywood, the wood industry – from cabinetmakers to architects and designers – is not only selecting products that are durable, lightweight, and consistently of the highest quality, but is also helping to reduce the demand for Russian timber and supporting sustainable practices and social responsibility in the industry.