International Crackdown on Rosewood Furniture Trade

by | Nov 2, 2016 | World Featured

A recent Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) has placed all species of rosewood under trade restrictions, so criminal gangs can no longer pass off illegally source rosewood as legitimate timber. City officials are hoping the extra protection afforded to rosewood trees curbs the international trade in illegal rosewood that is fuelling the luxury furniture market.


Royalty Free Photo

Rosewood is one of the world’s most sought after types of furniture. It is also one of the most trafficked products, with rosewood accounting for a third of all wild product seizures. Because of its popularity, rosewood is now a billion-dollar trade, with unscrupulous traffickers plundering wild forests to supply the luxury furniture market in the Far East.

Highly Desirable Furniture

Customers from all over the world love the rich, warm colour of rosewood furniture. Check out a luxury furniture store such as Max Sparrow and you will see items of rosewood furniture for sale at premium prices. As a result of its popularity, the rosewood trade is now worth $2.2 billion a year. Supplies of rosewood from forests in south-east Asia have been unable to keep up with demand, so traffickers have resorted to plundering other forests in Africa and South America. According to figures from Forest Trends, Chinese imports of rosewood from West Africa soared to $216 million in the first half of 2016.

Boom and Bust Culture

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) describes a devastating boom and bust cycle, where illegal logging gangs clear entire forests of rosewood, felling every single tree they find, so the forest has no chance of regeneration. Shady networks of logging gangs, fuelled by corruption in local government infrastructure, ensure the trade continues, and it’s only when controls are strengthened or the supply of trees runs out that the gangs move on to a new area.

Decimation of Natural Resources

The decimation of rosewood forests affects not only the environment. Local communities are also devastated by the illegal rosewood trade, as once forests have been cleared, there is not enough timber left to provide charcoal for fuel or the raw materials for traditional medicines.

Without protection, many believe that there will be no rosewood trees left within three years. The problem is that many officials can’t tell the difference between different species of rosewood, so criminals are able to pass off protected species of rosewood as a previously unprotected one. In some cases, even experts find it difficult to tell the difference. With all species of rosewood now under a protection order, it will be much harder for criminals to import and export rosewood. It won’t stop the illegal trade in rosewood, but it will make it a thousand times more difficult.

New Rules Apply to Rosewood

Some species of rosewood can still be logged, but only if they are deemed to be sustainable. The rules also affect the import/export of rosewood for the manufacture of musical instruments.

Unfortunately, however, whilst the new measures offer a much greater degree of protection to endangered rosewood trees, unless officials enforce the rules and stamp out corruption, illegal rosewood logging is likely to continue.

Share This