EIA report: China fuelling illegal logging in Mozambique

Friday, 25 July, 2014

This piece comes via AlertNet Climate/Thomson Reuters and AllAfrica, and outlines how,  according to a report published on Wednesday by the UK- and Washington DC-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), “China’s insatiable demand for timber has led to illegal and unsustainable logging of Mozambique’s forests, costing the country millions of dollars in lost duties and taxes and affecting impoverished rural communities.”

That original report, which is based on "research, undercover investigations and analysis conducted by EIA from 2013-14" can be found on the EIA website here, along with EIA's take on their findings and their press contacts for those seeking further detail.

Apparently an enormous 93 percent of logging in 2013 in Mozambique was illegal. The enabling culprits listed are the usual ones: weak law enforcement, corruption, poor funding and incompetent leadership.

According to the report, since 2007 “all of this crime and environmental mismanagement has robbed Mozambique’s rural poor and wider population of $146 million” in lost taxes - including potentially $20 million that should have gone to rural communities under the 2002 Forest Regulations.

From the article:

The lost taxes could have covered 30 years of Mozambique’s National Forest Program’s law enforcement system and almost twice the state budget for poverty alleviation programs in 2014, EIA said.

The vast majority of timber exports (93 percent on average between 2007 and 2013) were shipped to China… A 2013 report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) concurred on China’s influence in the Mozambique timber industry.

“Virtually no Mozambican-owned companies are engaged in the export of timber. The international trade of Mozambican timber is mainly operated by Chinese companies, which export the timber to the Chinese market,” the CIFOR report said.


“With key commercial species being rapidly depleted, and with clear raw material needs in Mozambique, any suggestion that timber exports are sustainable is misguided,” Jago Wadley, forest campaigner for EIA, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Louis Putzel, a forestry export with CIFOR, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that China needs to boost the capacity of its customs agents to monitor shipments and reject those without proper documentation. If that fails, bans on trade of certain threatened tree species or on imports from certain countries, may need to be imposed, he said.

"This does not apply only to China," he noted. Right now, "even the EU is so far unable to identify and block illegal timber, despite the new laws they have in place."


While there is an opportunity for Mozambique to access $3.8 million in international funding to establish a REDD+* strategy for the country, it would be hard pressed to succeed “until widespread crime and corruption are eliminated,” said the report.

* Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is “a UN-backed effort under which richer greenhouse gas emitting countries pay poorer tropical forest countries to protect standing forest as a way of curbing carbon levels in the atmosphere and meeting their own emissions reductions commitments.”

Sadly, this is not news - not new news, anyway. it's been known for some time, and frequently published, that Mozambique loses millions to Chinese trading in illegal logging. The question is whether the country is in a position to do anything about it, or whether it has the will; evidence at present sadly indicates that it does not.