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China’s Hongmu Consumption Boom

by Christin VanZant last modified Oct 03, 2016 09:20 PM
Contributors: Forest Trends
Last month, Bloomberg published an article on China's demand for furniture produced from illegally sourced and highly endangered rosewood, highlighting Forest Trends’ work on illegal deforestation and associated timber trade flows. The article is based on the Chinese Customs data which Forest Trends has been compiling and analyzing as a key element of Forest Trends’ work program.

China consumes the vast majority of the world's rosewood (a class of rare and valuable red-toned woods). While imports from SE Asia are still rising, the demand is so high that Chinese traders are looking for new sources. As a result, rosewood imports from West Africa to China have risen dramatically (2,000 percent) since 2009.The Bloomberg article puts this trend in an alarming context, in which criminal timber networks capitalize on poor governance and rule of law, and high levels of corruption which are enabling continued high rates of illegal and unsustainable logging in West African rosewood range states.

These trade networks are composed of local, national, regional, and Chinese actors, and often follow the same patterns as (or are directly linked with) criminal networks trafficking in other forms of contraband. In countries fraught by civil conflict, armed groups are using the revenue from rosewood sales to help finance or exacerbate these destabilizing conflicts. For example, the Senegalese government classifies 95% of rosewood illegally traded across the border to Gambia as "conflict timber," since it originates in a region held by rebel forces. Forest Trends’ research released earlier this year demonstrates that fewer than 15 percent of peace agreements worldwide address natural resources, even as they are increasingly recognized as a major factor in armed conflict. The failure to integrate good resource governance into peacebuilding efforts may explain why half of all peace agreements collapse within five years.

In a historic move, countries meeting at the ongoing 17th CITES COP won a huge victory for the world’s most threatened forests this week by adopting five separate proposals that grant more stringent protection under CITES to hundreds of rosewood species targeted by illegal logging and trade. The measures include protection across national borders for all species within the Dalbergia genus, which includes approximately 250 species native to tropical forests and more than 300 species worldwide.

While this week’s developments at CITES represent a huge step toward curbing the rapid loss of forests in Africa and Asia, species-based protections alone can’t solve the problem. Ultimately, further action from China and other nations – not only for rosewood but all species which are being illegal harvested – will be required to effectively preserve these forests and the ecosystem services that they provide.

Our Forest Policy, Trade, and Finance initiative is analyzing the rosewood trade in the context of the program’s focus on tracking timber imports and exports. By triangulating credible data and providing this information to diverse coalitions of policy-makers, private sector actors, and civil society, we are increasing transparency in markets for wood products (and related causes of forest loss).

This work falls under our Strategic Priority to engage in efforts to reduce deforestation and degradation (forest loss) and to restore intact and productive forests through efforts to create financial incentives and legal and policy solutions that incentivize forest protection and management.

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