China demand fuels illegal logging, report says

Nov 29, 2012 by Sebastien Blanc
Laborers moving logs of wood at a timber market in the suburbs of Hefei, central China's Anhui province. The preservation of the world's forests "is in China's hands", a top environmental campaign group said.

The preservation of the world's forests "is in China's hands", a top environmental campaign group said Thursday, accusing the biggest wood importer and consumer of fuelling the illegal timber trade.

"China's role as the world's biggest timber trader means that further progress against illegal logging depends on the nation taking measures," the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in a report released in Beijing.

"Yet while other major consumer markets have acted, China remains firmly on the sidelines."

China's demand for foreign wood has tripled since 2000 to reach 180 million cubic metres last year—enough to fill Beijing's iconic Bird's Nest stadium, which hosted the Olympics, more than 60 times.

At least a tenth of those imports came from illegal sources, the EIA said, basing the figure on trade data analysis and illegal logging rates in certain exporting nations. It said it was a conservative estimate with the reality "likely to be far higher".

"The fate of much of the world's natural forests is in China's hands," it said, accusing Beijing of a "stated unwillingness to explicitly prohibit illegal timber trade".

Over the past decade the European Union, United States and Australia have passed laws to better regulate or ban illegal timber, while Japan and other countries were considering similar moves, it said.

China had proposed a government-to-government verification scheme and code of conduct for Chinese businesses overseas, but the EIA said these did not guarantee effective enforcement.

"Any of the improvements made through legislation in the EU or in the US or now in Australia will come to nothing if China does not do the same," Jago Wadley, a senior campaigner for the organisation, told reporters on Thursday.

's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei stressed China's desire to stop unlawful practices and encourage sustainable development.

"We are opposed to the illegal farming and trade of timber," he said, adding China sought to "enhance the protection of forestry resources across the world and we would like to make more contributions in this regard".

Between 75 and 85 percent of wood products made in China stay in the country, the EIA said, citing Deutsche Bank and other sources, limiting its need to abide by other nations' timber regulations.

"China's rapidly growing domestic consumer market is the main absorber of illegal timber imported into the country," the EIA said, "and without action will be chief driver of worldwide into the future".

The report said Chinese demand for wood had impacted countries from the nearby Mekong region to as far as Africa.

During Liberia's civil war in the early 2000s its timber exports to China rose faster than any other African country—a trade that incurred a rare ban by the United Nations in 2004 for funding Charles Taylor's brutal government.

Surging demand for rosewood in China—used in traditional furniture and whose value has jumped 25 percent in a year—has fed "a climate of corruption and conflict" in Southeast Asian supplier nations, the organisation added.

Thailand has intercepted 3,000 illegal exports of rosewood worth $3 billion, it said, while Chinese traders had been reported working with Vietnamese gangs to secure illegal supplies.

The hunt for rosewood has driven Chinese traders ever deeper into source areas, said EIA campaign leader Julian Newman.

"You have to go further and further, that means more checkpoints, more bribes," he said. "So again there is a displacement effect, you have to move to other places."

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lao forests feeding Vietnam industry, group says

Jul 28, 2011

(AP) -- Despite an export ban, Vietnamese companies are smuggling logs from the once rich forests of Laos to feed a billion-dollar wood industry that turns timber into furniture for export to the Europe and the United States, ...

Porous China-Myanmar border allowing illegal wildlife trade

Mar 16, 2010

Porous borders are allowing vendors in Myanmar to offer a door-to-door delivery service for illegal wildlife products such as tiger bone wine to buyers in China, according to TRAFFIC's latest snapshot into wildlife trade ...

China to appeal WTO ruling over rare earth exports

Aug 24, 2011

China, under pressure to relax controls over rare earths, said Wednesday it would appeal against a World Trade Organisation ruling that it illegally restricted exports of other key raw materials.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

( —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...