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24 Mar 06
China Major Conduit for Illegal Wood, Report Says
Story by Reuben Carder
JAKARTA - China is a major conduit and the United States, Japan and European Union key markets for furniture and wood products from countries where illegal logging is common and human rights records are poor, a new report says. The report issued on Friday, "China and the Global Market for Forest Products", is based on five years of research by Forest Trends, the Centre for International Forestry Research, the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, and other groups.
It found about 70 percent of all timber imported into China, now the largest consumer of wood from tropical developing countries, is converted into furniture, plywood and other processed products for export. China has captured about a third of global furniture trade over the past eight years, and the booming business, coupled with China's domestic demand for paper and wood products, is devastating forests and forest communities elsewhere, the report says.
"Few consumers realise that the cheap prices they pay are directly linked to the exploitation of some of the poorest people on earth," said lead author Andy White in a media statement.
The report urges the Chinese government to act domestically to strengthen tenure and reform policies related to timber, improve productivity and focus more on ecosystem protection. Such steps would enable China's government and industry to reduce the reliance on imports which helps drive illegal logging in other countries.
China accounts for over half the log exports from Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Indonesia, the report says. In Indonesia alone 80 percent of the timber harvest is estimated to be illegal, with poor forest management and murky laws adding to wood industry problems in a country where deforestation threatens the environment of indigenous tribes and many rare species.
At present cutting rates, natural forests in Indonesia will be logged out in 10 years, Papua New Guinea in 13 to 16 years, and the "situation in Myanmar is no better, and may be even worse", the report says.
The Indonesian government has been trying since early 2005 to crack down on illegal exports of wood from its remote Papua province to China, estimated to be worth over $1 billion a year.
Environmental campaigners say politicians in Jakarta and Papua have cooperated with criminal networks in the illegal trade. Elements of the Indonesian police and military have also been accused of turning a blind eye to or even helping expedite illegal logging from forests across Indonesia's vast archipelago.
PlanetArk 29 Mar 06
China at Heart of Illegal Timber Trade - Greenpeace
BEIJING - China lies at the heart of a global trade plundering endangered rainforests in Southeast Asia to supply Europe and the United States, the environmental group Greenpeace said in a report issued in Beijing on Tuesday.
The report described how timber from unlicensed logging in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea was shipped to China and turned into furniture plywood and veneer, often sold to developed countries.
"A significant part of China's timber imports comes from illegal or destructive logging," Sze Pang Cheung, a Beijing-based campaign manager for Greenpeace, told reporters at the launch of the report.
"Developed countries' demand for Chinese products is fuelling the global forest crisis." Half the tropical logs traded worldwide were destined for China, and many of those logs camed from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where illegal logging and flagrant over-felling were widespread, Sze said.
He cited Indonesian government estimates that in 2004, 76 percent of timber produced came from illegal logging. Sze said Greenpeace had no firm estimate of the proportion of China's plywood exports that came from illegal logging. But he said the percentage was "high," noting vast discrepancies in countries' customs statistics and China's growing dependence on wood from Southeast Asia's lush but rapidly shrinking forests.
Half the tropical logs traded worldwide were destined for China, he said.
In 2004, Chinese customs recorded imports of 2.8 million cubic metres of timber from Malaysia and Indonesia, but those two countries recorded shipping only 1.66 million cubic metres of timber to China.
Environmental advocates stressed that responsibility for halting the illegal trade rested not only with Beijing.
Consumers and companies in rich countries were turning a blind eye to illegalities, said the Greenpeace report. "China, Europe, the USA, Japan and other consuming and timber supplying countries must equally share the blame for ancient forest destruction," the report said.
It said that at current rates of destruction, remaining forest reserves were not enough for developed countries, not to speak of growing consumers like China.
The Chinese government has acknowledged that some Chinese companies are involved in illegal logging in Southeast Asia, including neighbouring Myanmar. A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday the government was acting to staunch illegal timber imports.
"We will also take measures to harshly punish illegal logging," the spokesman, Qin Gang, told reporters at a regular news briefing in Beijing. "We are willing to consult with relevant countries in Southeast Asia in this regard to make joint efforts."
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