Published 20th October 2010
Nagoya, Japan, 20th October 2010—Rising demand for agarwood, problems in monitoring harvests and a persistent illegal trade threaten the future of the highly prized fragrant wood says a report launched today by TRAFFIC.
Marina Antonopoulou, James Compton, Lisa S. Perry, Razan Al-Mubarak
Agarwood is found only in a few Asian tree species which produce resin-impregnated heartwood as a response to wounding or infection. It has been used for centuries as highly-prized perfume, incense and traditional medicine across Asia and the Middle East.
Today, hundreds of tonnes of agarwood are traded each year, involving at least 18 countries. Half of the declared volume in international trade in 2005 originated from Malaysia. International trade in agarwood is regulated through a system of permits by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Growth in the population and affluence of consuming markets in Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has seen demand soar over the past 30 years leading to rapidly diminishing stocks in the wild, rising prices and concerns over future supplies.
Whole trees are normally felled to find the valuable resin deposits but with just 10% of trees naturally infected this is a very inefficient process. Over-exploitation of old-growth trees has led to a reduction in the quality and quantity of agarwood available. Today, seven of the 18 agarwood-producing tree species found in Malaysia are at risk of global extinction.
“All too often protected areas are being stripped of their agarwood-bearing trees and the opportunity for a well-managed harvest to provide a sustainable income for local communities is lost,” said James Compton, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Director for Asia and a joint author of the UAE report.
“Better enforcement of protection laws and a move to creating cultivated agarwood to supply the trade are two measures producer countries should urgently consider to help conserve their irreplaceable biodiversity.”
Between 2004 and 2007, reported imports of agarwood chips to the UAE rose from 56 to 162 tonnes, an increase of almost 300 per cent. Analysis of reported CITES trade data also showed that large shipments of agarwood sent from Singapore and India to the UAE listed Malaysia or Indonesia as the origin.
The UAE’s role as an important global consumer market, as well as the major re-exporter of agarwood to the Middle East is the subject of The Trade and Use of Agarwood (Oudh) in the United Arab Emirates (PDF, 710 KB).
The report identifies steps taken by the UAE authorities to monitor the trade, including the registering of traders. However, it also points to difficulties in controlling trade in various forms of agarwood, particularly agarwood oil, commonly transported in personal luggage. Most agarwood seized at Dubai Airport because of a lack of the relevant CITES documentation was found in the personal luggage of passengers arriving from India.
TRAFFIC recommends monitoring of personal luggage carried into the UAE and the setting of a limit for personal effects exemptions and further urges producer and consumer countries to step up ongoing co-operation in managing the global trade.
Further work by the UAE authorities to engage key trading partners, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India directly, would assist in addressing issues in regulation and enforcement
James Compton, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Director for Asia
The agarwood trade was a prominent agenda item at the CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar, last March where commitments were made to streamline trade controls, improve sustainability assessments, and increase networking between trading countries.
The reports were released in Nagoya, Japan, during the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Recommendations to ensure sustainable and legal trade in agarwood, and combating illegal and destructive harvesting practices are a means to strengthen the Convention’s Global Strategy on Plant Conservation (GSPC).
in Agarwood imports to the UAE between 2004 and 2007
from Agarwood are popular consumer products in the UAE
is the common name for Agarwood in the UAE
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