Chinese Luxury Wood Demand Driving Massive Madagascar Deforestation

chinese rosewood bed photo

photo: Environmental Investigation Agency

It's probably no great secret for avid TreeHugger readers that deforestation is rampant in Madagascar, with lots of illegal logging taking place even in national parks due to the less-than-stable political situation. A new report from Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency sheds some light on where all that illegally felled rosewood, ebony, and pallisander is going. The answer overwhelmingly is China. The report shows that about 98% of Madagascar's illegally cut timber ends up in China, with the remaining 2% making its way into products in the United States and European Union.

That small percentage of wood coming to the US is do in no small part to the recently enacted Lacey Act, which makes it a specific offense to import illegally harvested wood and, the report notes, has deterred many buyers.

Here's where the luxury wood part of the title comes in: EIA says that some Malagasy rosewood beds (like the one at the top of this post) sell for up to $1 million each--with just 0.1% of that going to the local people. More reasonably priced carved rosewood furniture, still sells for thousands of dollars in high-end Chinese malls, with rosewood from Madagascar being the most prized.

Our investigations found that Chinese buyers are well aware of pressure from the international community to end the trade in Malagasy precious wood, though most buyers with whom EIA spoke feel that the pressure is a pretense used by the West to address China's growing trade surplus. They also believe that even if the Malagasy government implements a strict ban on export in the near future, it will be temporary, as with previous bans. Buyers attracted by the highly lucrative nature of the rosewood import business quoted the proverb, "He who stays till the end laughs at the end." The common understanding among traders is that they will keep importing rosewood, regardless of the legal circumstances on the ground in Madagascar.

For comparison with another high-deforestation nation, the annual rate of forest loss in Madagascar is three times higher than that of Indonesia.

Read the original report: Investigation Into the Global Trade in Malagasy Precious Woods [PDF]

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More on Deforestation:
Madagascar Rosewood From National Park On A Boat To China
Madagascar Legally Exports Illegally Logged Rosewood
Illegal Logging, Lotting and Civil Strife Close Madagascar National Park, Rare Lemurs at Risk

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