China spurring illegal timber trade in Tanzania

December 22nd, 2007 - 4:30 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 22 (ANI): Scientists have said that due to Chinas increasing demands for timber, illegal trade activities have emerged in the forest sector of Tanzania, which is one of its main exporters of timber.

Though Tanzania is only one of many African suppliers of timber to China, which include Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mozambique, the country’s contribution has skyrocketed in recent years.

This is indicative due to an increase in Tanzania’s timber export market by almost 1,400 percent in value between 1997 and 2005.

According to a report released in May by TRAFFIC International, a joint program of the conservation nonprofit WWF and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), China accounted for all indigenous hardwood logs and three-quarters of sawn wood and raw material exported between July 2005 and January 2006.

The report also found that Tanzania lost 58 million U.S. dollars annually during 2004 and 2005 in timber revenue due to poor governance and corruption in the forestry sector.

These illegal activities include logging without documentation, logging in unauthorized areas, and the use of invalid export documentation.

The report cited the “chronic nature of petty corruption whereby even timber trade activities involving legally-harvested timber products were affected by bribery.”

Other observers have noted that the government’s regulatory bodies have not been able to keep up with the swift growth of the timber sector.

“The government has no capacity to monitor the logging taking place in different forests,” said Charles Meshack, executive director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, an organization that monitors forest issues.

According to Meshack, the corruption is evident in the discrepancies between Tanzania’s export data and China’s import data.

“These Chinese companies are not using proper channels,” Meshack told National Geographic News, adding that there is far more timber arriving in Chinese ports than has been registered at the Tanzanian ports.

To rein in illegal logging, the government has banned the exportation of logs and sandalwood and suspended tree harvesting in protected natural forest areas on and off since 2004.

But, according to Simon Milledge, deputy director for TRAFFIC’s East/Southern Africa division, The timber business should not be stopped entirely because it offers poor rural communities rare access to investment and trade opportunities.

While the Tanzanian government must do more to establish accountability for their forests, American and European consumers who buy the finished wood products, should also be informed, Milledge told National Geographic News.

“Everyone who consumes these products should be doing more to verify the legality of the trade chain,” he added. (ANI)

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