Recent report sheds light on guitar wood trade
Friday, February 22, 2013 at 15:53
TRAFFIC in Forestry, In Europe

22nd February 2012—An investigation by TRAFFIC of imports into the European Union (EU) of a valuable tropical hardwood widely used in the manufacture of musical instruments, particularly guitars, has helped clarify the rules regarding trade in the valuable commodity.

TRAFFIC was asked to prepare the report on trade in Brazilian Rosewood Dalbergia nigra into the EU following a seizure, in 2011, of more than 460 electric guitars with rosewood fingerboards that had been imported without the necessary EU import permits.

The EU authorities concerned considered it unlikely to be an isolated case, and asked TRAFFIC to investigate whether illegal trade in Brazilian Rosewood was a common occurrence.

Endemic to Brazil, Brazilian Rosewood is highly valued in the manufacture of musical instruments owing to its attractive appearance and high resonance properties. It is also used in the manufacture of flooring, luxury furniture and in other high value industries.

The species was listed in Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 1992, which effectively prohibits its international commercial trade. However, there are certain exceptions, notably trade in wood harvested prior to 1992—so-called “pre-Convention” material—is still permitted under CITES. But not in the EU, where CITES regulations are implemented through the stricter EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Here, while pre-Convention timber may still be re-exported, it cannot be imported into the EU for commercial purposes, other than in very limited circumstances (for example, in the case of pre-1947 antiques).

The situation had led to considerable confusion by those involved in the music industry, with US manufacturers in particular seeking clarification on the legislation governing trade in the EU.

An analysis of CITES trade data revealed the EU’s ongoing role as an important importer and re-exporter of pre-Convention Brazilian Rosewood timber, presenting obvious challenges for monitoring, control and enforcement of trade restrictions.

Even identifying the species correctly presents a challenge, with clear potential for timber to be mis-declared and illegally traded. There is also a lack of information on the amount of Brazilian Rosewood currently stockpiled in the EU.

Seizure data plus internet searches into the availability of Brazilian Rosewood indicate that illegal trade in the timber may be significant, although its scale remains unclear, says the report.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that information and tools on timber identification techniques should be made widely available to EU enforcement officers, sales should be regularly monitored, and EU CITES authorities should share experiences and lessons learnt regarding the registration of timber stockpiles. Greater international co-operation is also encouraged, particularly between the EU and major trading partners such as the US, together with the exchange of information between the EU and Brazil regarding the extent of illegal logging of the species.

Trade in Dalbergia nigra and the European Union
(PDF, 1.8 MB)

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