U.S. furniture demand drives illegal logging in Laos
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
March 24, 2008
Illegal wood for Vietnamese factories devastates forests in the Mekong region of Laos. Western desire for cheap wood furniture at blame
Undercover investigations by EIA and Telapak revealed that Laos now provides the majority of illegal timber to Vietnam's furniture plants. The environmental groups estimate that 500,000 cubic meters of logs find their way from Laos to Vietnam every year.
Laos itself sees little profit in this trade.
Industrialized countries play a key role in the trade — ninety percent of the furniture built in Vietnam is exported. The top six importers are the US, Japan, UK, Germany, France and China.
"The ultimate responsibility for this dire state of affairs rests with the consumer markets which import wood products made from stolen timber," said Newman. "Until these states clean up their act and shut their markets to illegal wood products, the loss of precious tropical forests will continue unabated."
The United States is by far the worst of these importers: in 2007 the US imported 930 million dollars worth of Vietnamese furniture — well over a third of Vietnamese total furniture exports.
Yellow balau log from Laos outside Taianh factory. The firm is a major trader in logs from Laos. Courtesy of EIA
The report recommends that the US, EU, Japan and China quickly adopt national laws to prohibit illegally harvested wood from their markets. In the meantime, consumers should "only buy wood products independently verified as legally sourced, with a transparent and full chain of custody," says EIA.
BORDERLINES: Report revealing how Vietnam has become a hub for processing huge quantities of unlawfully-logged timber from across Indochina, threatening some of the last intact forests in the region.