ABSTRACT Understanding entry pathways resulting from global trade is critical to assess the risks of introduction of invasive alien species (IAS). From 1996 onward, the import of timber from Russia and the Baltic States to Belgium dramatically increased, with more than one million cubic metres of coniferous round wood imported until 2004. Such a high volume could have served as entry pathway for exotic bark beetles from the East that have the potential to become forest insect pests upon establishment. We collected and cross-checked different data sources (FAOSTAT, Eurostat, National Bank of Belgium, Belgian Customs, the Belgian sawmills industry) regarding the import of timber in an attempt to trace back the spatial and temporal patterns of this trade, and to assess the expected validity of a pest risk analysis based on those data. We found that the timber trade between 1996 and 2004 is particularly dynamic in space and time, and may have allowed several opportunities for exotic bark-beetle introductions. In addition, the patterns of trade change so quickly from year to year that the existing data sources are essentially not adequate for IAS risk assessment in a near real-time fashion. The data are either comprehensive, but then aggregated at a too coarse level (space, time, or category) to be of real use in risk assessment, or available with adequate levels of details, in which case they are mostly partial or incomplete. Better accessibility to data and data exchanges between organizations in charge of trade data collection and plant protection would help better targeting of phytosanitary controls.