Nov 30, 2012
China’s insatiable appetite for timber is driving a growing illegal
trade that is stripping forests in Africa and Asia and fuelling
conflict, underscoring the urgency for Beijing to enact laws to crack
down, an environment group said yesterday.
China is the world’s
top importer of illegal timber, with the trade worth about $4 billion a
year, said the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Globally, Interpol estimates total trade in illegal timber is more than $30 billion.
EIA released its report Appetite for Destruction: China’s Trade in
Illegal Timber in Beijing to highlight what it said was China’s lack of
action, in contrast to major trading partners such as the US.
has built a vast wood-processing industry, reliant on imports for most
of its raw materials supply. It is in effect exporting deforestation,”
the group said in the report.
It said China’s state-owned
companies played a major role in securing supplies from overseas. An EIA
analysis of China’s trade data for 2007 showed state-owned firms
imported nearly half the volume of tropical logs that year.
EIA, drawing on its own investigations and the work of Interpol, the
World Bank and others, says China’s demand for timber has fuelled
conflict in Myanmar, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea as well as parts of
China’s booming economy has driven demand for timber for
construction. In addition, many of its newly wealthy are splashing out
on furniture, including items such as rosewood lounge sets that can cost
hundreds of thousands of dollars. In Laos, rare rosewood logs can fetch
$18,000 per cubic metre and more in neighbouring states, says the EIA.
EIA estimates China imported at least 18.5 million cubic metres of
illegal logs and sawn timber in 2011, worth $3.7 billion. The group said
the estimate was conservative.