Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) China is the main channel for illegal logging in Asia while the United States, Europe and Japan are the key markets for timber products and furniture coming from countries where the illicit practice is widespread and human rights are ignored.
This was revealed in a report issued in Jakarta today, 24 March, by Forest Trends, the Centre for International Forestry Research, and the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy. The report is entitled "China and the Global Market for Forest Products" and is based on five years of research.
It found that about 70 per cent of all timber imported to China, the largest consumer in the world, was converted into furniture, plywood and other processed products for export. Beijing has captured 33 per cent of the global furniture trade over the past eight years, and the thriving business, coupled with its domestic demand for paper and wood products, is devastating forests and forest communities around the world.
"Few consumers realise that the cheap prices they pay are directly linked to the exploitation of some of the poorest people on earth," author Andy White said.
The report urges the Chinese government to act to strengthen domestic reform policies related to timber, improve productivity and focus more on ecosystem protection. Such steps would help Beijing and the industry to cut the country's reliance on imports that fuel illegal logging elsewhere. China accounts for more than 50 per cent of exports from Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Indonesia.
In Indonesia, 80 per cent of the timber market is held to be illegal, with poor forest protection and obscure laws adding to prevalent problems. The report predicted that "at present rates, natural forests in Indonesia would 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".
Jakarta has tried to crack down on illegal exports of wood to China, estimated to be worth more than US billion a year, while Beijing has decided to tax luxury products like yachts.
The Chinese government has also decided to impose a special tax on chopsticks and wood panels, used in all restaurants in the country. "For their production, more than 1.3 million cubic metres of wood are used," said the Chinese Finance Minister. "This puts unsustainable pressure on the country's already beleaguered forest resources." But this move seems to be merely a drop in the ocean.