China is Turning the Rainforest into Cheap Furniture for the U.S.

We all know as consumers that Chinese products are cheaper than the rest of the world, and for that purpose we buy them, but these low prices come with a cost. The Americans order cheap furniture, and since the demand is so high China has become the greatest importer of illegal timber. This has caused great damage to the forests across Africa and Asia.

According to a 2018 conducted study released in the Royal Geographical Society there is a strong link between the exportation of timber to China and the destruction of forests in the Congo Basin. The researchers have analyzed data that has been gathering from 2001 to 2015 and the results showed that the tree-coverage was dramatically changed during that period.

In a period of 15 years, the timber exports from countries in the Congo Basin to China have doubled. Half of these exports are from Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, and according to the findings of the researchers there is a strong relation between higher timber exports to China and tree-cover loss in the Congo Basin. Plus, these timber imports from the Congo Basin were significantly increased with the rise of American demand for furniture made in China.

The Global Rise of Illegal Timber Trade

The reason for its increase in the last decades is as always profit. Due to the great demand of it the illegal timber industry has reached its peak and it is believed to be worth $30 and $100 billion on yearly basis. According to the latest estimates 30% of the timber produced each year is done illegally. The impacts of its rise on the environment are disastrous including the one in the developing countries.

However, the damage that the illegal loggers do as a result of the great demand of timber is devastating, The Environmental Investigation Agency reports that they clear a football field-sized area of forest every 2 seconds, and if they go at this rate the forests will be all gone very soon. Namely, in 2008, over 12 million acres of forest were lost due to illegal logging. The rainforests diminish and this clears another path for complete depletion of them thus making way for plantations.

The illegal timber trade mostly affects the developing countries because their forests are not well-regulated, and then there is the weak law enforcement as a result of the ongoing corruption. According to estimates, developing countries lose $15 billion in taxes and revenue each year as a result of illegal logging. The losses that these countries experience slow down their development and destabilize struggling areas. Due to the great profit that illegal timber trade brings in many areas there is rise in violence as traffickers are protecting their lucrative business. It has lead to many armed conflicts in countries like Cambodia, Liberia Myanmar, and Sierra Leone.

Measures against Illegal Timber Trade

The depletion of forests does not only affect the developing countries, but the whole world, and because of that many countries around have taken certain measures against it. The reforms that showed positive results were the ones imposing good regulations in timber exporting countries, and also amending the markets in consumer countries such as the European Union and the United States.

The 2003 Forest Law Enforcement Government of the European Union and Trade Action Plan set clear guidelines for verifying the exact origin of the timber. This was also applied in the states by the US’s 2008 Amendment to the Lacey. Thanks to the implementation of these reforms the illegal timber production was lowered up to 22% since 2002 in the whole world.

Yet, China still is the biggest trader of illegal timber in the world, and that affects the whole world, bust especially the developing countries and their surroundings.

This can be stopped if the countries that import these products ask for a verification of the timber origin. This means that the states as the biggest importer of timber furniture should demand their goods to be made from legally logged timber.