Project final report

Developing DNA-based Chain of Custody Systems for Legally-Sourced Teak - final report

Date released
03 October 2019
Publication Code

Eleanor Dormontt and Andrew Lowe


This Small Research Activity (SRA) aimed to develop DNA-based legality verification and chain of custody systems for teak in Laos, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and PNG, where ACIAR has teak projects. In Myanmar and Thailand, it made sure the teak DNA database represents the SE Asian natural forest and plantations from which teak is harvested. This project built on two SRAs (FST/2014/028 and FST/2015/007) that developed DNA markers that could be used with teak timber and that studied the teak chains in Indonesia and Myanmar.

Teak is one of the most commercially important timbers in the world. Its timber is durable and water resistant, and is used for boats, buildings, veneer, carving, turnings, and furniture. Illegally logged timber products, including teak, can enter markets through mixing legitimate supply chains and associated document fraud. Australia works with producer countries to prevent illegal timber entering Australia; this benefits producer countries and improves environmental outcomes globally. Removing doubt about the origin of timber creates certainty for industry and consumers, opens markets for timber, and increases taxation revenue for governments of developing countries. It also provides a mechanism for community forestry suppliers to demonstrate sustainability to the global market. DNA markers are used to distinguish timber species, source populations and individuals. The cost of this technology is dropping dramatically and is already cost effective when used with document verification audits. DNA technology is suitable for checking chain-of-custody compliance claims, and has been used for species in Indonesia and China.

The University of Adelaide managed this project, working with the private sector and partners from ACIAR teak projects. The project made legality compliance systems more efficient, reduced barriers for smallholders and wood manufacturing SMEs, and helped Australia to restrict the import of illegally sourced timber.