A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe with the high value (up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export). Buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon. To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed also.
Recognising the severe impact illegal logging is having on tax revenue generation, the Lao government has launched a pilot program to track the source of timber from sawmills and wood-processing plants. Demand for the valuable hongmu (redwood) timber from neighbouring China is thought to be driving illegal logging in the country. The pilot program requires all logs in sawmills and wood-processing plants to be inspected before export and to lay a framework for documentation that they are derived from legal sources, according to the reports.
Almost 80% of logging in the state of Pará is illegal, but loggers and sawmills here have clever scams that give illegal timber a cover story. Greenpeace discovered that the DIY chain Jewson was selling decking made from ipe, a rare tree found in the Amazon. Jewson buys its ipe from International Timber, who admitted to buying the timber without any third-party check to verify the chain of custody. Greenpeace have asked the NMO to investigate Jewson and International Timber, as well as other companies importing and selling timber from the Brazilian Amazon.
A report from the UK- and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has said that up to 80% of the hardwood harvested in the Russian far east is logged illegally. The EIA say the demand for this material comes from Chinese sawmills and subsequently their western customers. The material that is of most concern is illegally logged Russian oak. US wood flooring retailer, Lumber Liquidators, was named in the report as being heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers who allegedly mainly sell illegally logged material. The EIA say the US and EU regulations on illegal logging are important pressure points where they now have the ability to intervene – before now, and without this pressure, illegal logging in Siberia has seen rapid expansion. Despite industry incentives from the Russian government, incredible demand from China has led to Chinese sawmills establishing just over the China-Russia border. EIA’s investigations suggest that most of these mills rely on a supply of illegally logged timber.
A Brazilian company which designs technology to track and trace expensive goods has created a device which can be placed inside felled trees found in protected areas. When the felled trees are then transported to sawmills by illegal loggers, location updates are sent to a central server. Law enforcement agencies closed one sawmill and made several arrests during a pilot last year of 20 of the devices and the company hopes this will convince the government to roll out the technology.