Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cheap illegal timber trade costing the world economy billions of dollars

Timber harvested from Kakamega Forest in Kenya. (Photo: Isaiah Esipisu)
By David Njagi

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Illegal logging is collapsing the world timber market, experts at the ongoing United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting in Nairobi have warned.

Scientists accuse cartels involved in the fourth most profitable illegal trade of applying elusive tactics such as bribery and money laundering to deny the global economy billions of dollars.

Investigations by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), indicate that small illegal timber trade has fanned out and entered the world market cheaply.

But the amount being trafficked by big traders through international financial flows has become almost impossible to trace, argues Paolo Cerutti, an official with (CIFOR).

“The market for certified timber is very small and so it could be crippled by illegal trade,” says Cerutti.

According to Jamie Webb of the UNEP REDD+ project, the global economy losses more than 30 billion dollars annually due to illegal timber logging and trade.

Details shared by the UNEA team which scrutinized the economic potential of fighting illegal logging indicate that most of the cartels have their roots in Africa.

“Africa is a place where the timber industry is often working along the margins of unclear laws,” argues Davyth Stewart, of the environmental security programme at the International Police Organization (INTERPOL). “Illegal logging takes advantage of these ambiguous laws.”

According to him, logging cartels in Africa could be working with government officials in the Ministries of infrastructure and development, as well as mining, agriculture, or forestry departments.

This, he says, makes it difficult for law enforcers to track the illegal trade chain because it is protected by powerful government personalities.

The biggest concern for Africa is the inability to regulate, control and manage the timber industry because of unclear and ambiguous laws,” says Stewart. “This is how the cartels have been able to remain undercover.”

Poor land tenure in Africa, he says, also makes it very difficult to identify the owners where the logging is taking place.

In some countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 90 per cent of the timber is sourced illegally.

However, Webbe of UNEP, recommends the use of DNA tracing to hunt offenders, where the technology is so far working in USA.


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