A recent study in Ghana found a large increase in the illegal trade of Rosewood (Pterocarpus erinaceus) after the species was listed on CITES Appendices II and III.

According to the study, during the pre-CITES period of 2010-2015, 3,446 cubic meters of Rosewood were potentially traded illegally. During the post-CITES period, this number jumped to 7,574m3 (2016-2018).

How regulations incentivize illegal trade

Regulations can, and often do give rise to criminality. But how?

A regulation, such as a CITES listing, often leads to an increase in price for the regulated good. This stimulates demand. Coupled with corruption, this increase in demand results in an increase in the illegal harvest and trade of the good.

Despite a current ban on the harvest and export of Rosewood in Ghana, in the last two months:

Certificates cannot guarantee legality

CITES certificates cannot guarantee legality. They are supposed too, but at the end of the day, illegal wood can be traded with a CITES document. Just like illegal wood can be traded with an FSC-certificate. Even the FLEGT system which allows the import of FLEGT-licensed timber into the European Union without due diligence requirements increasingly appears to be susceptible to contamination by illegal wood.

Who benefits from timber regulations?

Regulations are important for the long-term good of forests and the forest industry. But there’s a point at which regulation, on top of regulation, becomes an advantage for black market operators and a detriment to forests.

Before additional regulations, verifications, and certifications are applied to forest product markets shouldn’t one question stand out above all… who will benefit?

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Header photo: Francesco Veronesi


One response to “Illegal Rosewood trade increased after CITES listing”

  1. John Hontelez Avatar
    John Hontelez

    Dear Editor. I appreciate your concerns about the reliability of CITES licenses. A valid CITES license is part of a system to protect endangered species. When a CITES license is linked to illegal wood, the license is a false one, or handed out by corrupted officials.

    I do not understand why you connect your concern with an accusation about FSC, when you say: “Just like illegal wood can be traded with an FSC-certificate”. You refer to an earlier article on your website which contains an important mistake: the FSC-certified company in the UK that got penalized for not having a due diligence procedure was NOT accused of importing illegal wood, but for not having a due diligence system. That is not the same. And in the second case you mention, about a Brazilian FSC-certified company accused of being involved in illegal logging, there is confusion between certification of a company and certification of shipments: only when a particular shipment has an FSC-claim, the FSC requirements and control regarding legality apply. By the way, whenever companies are accused of being involved in illegal logging outside of their certified supply chains, and there is evidence available, the FSC Policy for Association can be called upon to withdraw all rights of certification from such a company. In this way FSC helps to avoid that companies abuse FSC certification as greenwash. And, indeed, this Policy is used, in several cases with dis-association as a result, and, even better, re-association after a company has taken sufficient measures to compensate for damage and improve its performance

    John Hontelez, FSC Chief Advocacy Officer

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