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.
“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.
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