Report: nearly half the timber from Mozambique to China is illegal

Jeremy Hance
February 07, 2013

Log truck en route to Beira, Mozambique. Photo © : EIA.
Logs stacked in Mozambique. Photo © : EIA.

Forty-eight percent of the timber making its way from Mozambique's forests to Chinese companies was harvested illegally, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which blames the problem on widespread corruption and poor governance. The illegal logging cost Mozambique, the world's fourth least-developed country in the world according to the UN, $29 million in tax revenue, says the report.

"Despite recent commendable efforts by the Mozambican Government to control the illegal trade in timber to China, our investigation uncovers how high-level politicians, in league with unscrupulous Chinese traders, continue to not only breach Mozambique’s export and forest laws but are now putting pressure on the sustainable yield of Mozambique’s forests," said EIA forests campaigner Chris Moye.

The EIA went undercover both in Mozambique and China to expose the scale of the forest crime.

Log truck en route to Beira, Mozambique. Photo © : EIA.
Log truck en route to Beira, Mozambique. Photo © : EIA.
"In 2012 the Mozambican Government registered 260,385 cubic meters of log and sawn timber exports to world markets, including China,20 while China alone registered 450,000 cubic meters of log and sawn timber imports from Mozambique," the report reads. "The 189,615 cubic meter discrepancy is made up almost entirely of logs smuggled out of Mozambique by Chinese companies."

Mozambique has placed 22 of its 118 commercial tree species under partial bans, meaning these so-called "1st class" species must be processed into Mozambique before export, which means more revenue and jobs for the country. However, the EIA believes much of the timber smuggling into China was of these 22 species.

Illegal logging deprives locals of a hugely important natural resource, including injuring biodiversity, erosion buffers, watersheds and other ecosystem services. In addition, illegal logging often occurs in tandem with other organized crimes, such as drug and human trafficking.

The EIA calls on Mozambique to immediately ban log exports and kickstart a number of investigations into the illegal trade, including taking a look at corruption by forest officials, police, customs agents, and corporations. Around half of Mozambique is still under forest cover.

EIA says China should prohibit importing illegal timber, something the U.S., Australia, and soon the EU have already implemented. However, it's unlikely China will stop importing illegal wood anytime soon. Last November another report by the EIA found that China was the world's largest importer of illegally-logged wood, estimating that in 2011 the country imported at least 18.5 million cubic meters of sawn timber, 86 times that taken from Mozambique.

Related articles

Amphibian, tapir paradise in Honduras being ravaged by illegal deforestation

(02/06/2013) Located in a mountainous area near the border with Guatemala, Cusuco National Park in Honduras is recognized by researchers as a critical refuge for endangered amphibians in a country that has suffered from widespread deforestation. But while the park largely escaped the devastation that has affected other protected areas in Honduras, the situation seems to be changing: since 2010 there has been a sharp increase in deforestation. Poachers, small farmers, and cattle ranchers are moving into the park using a network of research trails and camps established by Operation Wallacea, a British conservation science NGO.

Illegally logged trees to start calling for help

(01/24/2013) Illegal loggers beware: trees will soon be calling—literally—for backup. The Brazilian government has begun fixing trees with a wireless device, known as Invisible Tracck, which will allow trees to contact authorities after being felled and moved.

Illegal logging, mining worsened impact of Philippines' killer typhoon

(12/06/2012) According to Filipino officials, rampant illegal logging and mining were likely a part of the cause for the high casualty count from Category 5 Typhoon Bopha (Pablo), especially in the Compostela Valley where government officials had warned people to stop the illegal activities. So far, 370 people have been found dead on the island of Mindanao with another 400 missing. Waters rose so high even emergency shelters were inundated.

'Exporting deforestation': China is the kingpin of illegal logging

(11/29/2012) Runaway economic growth comes with costs: in the case of China's economic engine, one of them has been the world's forests. According to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China has become the number one importer of illegal wood products from around the world. Illegal logging—which threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes—has come under heavy pressure in recent years from the U.S., the EU, and Australia. Each of these has implemented, or will soon implement, new laws that make importing and selling illegal wood products domestic crimes. However, China's unwillingness to tackle its vast appetite for illegal timber means the trade continues to decimate forests worldwide.

Australia outlaws illegally-logged wood from abroad

(11/21/2012) In another blow to illegal loggers, Australia has passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, joining the U.S. in outlawing the importation of illegal logged timber from abroad. The new legislation makes it a criminal offense for Australian businesses to import timber from illegal operations. The Australian government estimates that $400 million worth of illegal timber products are sold in the country each year often as outdoor furniture and wood for decks

Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo

(11/08/2012) In 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a moratorium on commercial logging in a bid to save rapidly falling forests, however a new report by Global Witness alleges that industrial loggers are finding a way around the logging freeze. Through unscrupulous officials, foreign companies are abusing artisanal permits—meant for local community logging—to clear-cut wide swathes of tropical forest in the country. These logging companies are often targeting an endangered tree—wenge (Millettia laurentii)—largely for buyers in China and Europe.

HSBC bank funding large-scale rainforest destruction and invasion of indigenous lands in Borneo, alleges report

(11/02/2012) HSBC has earned tens of millions financing the destruction of rainforests and invasion of indigenous land in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, alleges an explosive new report from Global Witness.

Smuggling of illegally logged rosewood in Madagascar continues, alleges report

(10/25/2012) Timber traders in Madagascar are smuggling illegally logged rosewood despite an official export ban, alleges a new report published by a Malagasy researcher.

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 07, 2013).

Report: nearly half the timber from Mozambique to China is illegal.