When I was in Madagascar last week, the main chat in the development agencies and press was about whether the President would sell off the country’s stock of rosewood. He had circulated a decree to his ministers requesing authorization to make the sale. Most Ministers signed it although the Prime Minister was holding off from doing so. Rosewood is a listed CITES species that can not be traded internationally. It is estimated by one NGO expert that there are 500,000 logs worth around USD 5 billion. There are no official figures that I can find.
If a domestic sale went ahead, it is considered most likely that it will be exported to China. Many experts in town comment that the sale’s proceeds would be used for political ends rather than investing in the country’s infrastructure and development.
President Andry Rajoelina (Pic: wikipedia)
A group of international and Malagasy conservation organizations found that Madagascar’s rosewood sells for $40-50,000 per ton on Chinese markets. Based on their estimates, this puts the value at around $10-15,000 per log, making an estimate of $5 billion for all the logs.
The sale has not yet been announced, so watch this space!
The text of the letter that international and Malagascy NGOs sent to the President
1 October 2013
To President Andry Rajoelina, Prime Minister Omer Beriziky, and the Madagascar Council of Ministers:
Re: Open letter from civil society groups opposing Madagascar’s illegal sale of its massive stockpiles of rosewood and ebony
We, the undersigned organizations with decades of experience working to protect forests, the environment, indigenous peoples and forest dependant communities around the world, are writing to express our opposition to the decree now being circulated that would fast track the illegal sale of Malagasy rosewood and ebony stockpiles. We strongly urge the Madagascar Council of Ministers to oppose the draft decree and ensure a fair, equitable and transparent means of disposing of the stockpiles that benefits all Malagasies and strengthens the rule of law in Madagascar.
Over the past 10 years, Madagascar has experienced a crisis of rampant illegal logging, which has decimated the world-renowned biodiversity of its national parks, impoverished local communities, and fueled corruption. Hundreds of thousands of tons of extremely high value rosewood and ebony have been illegally cut and smuggled out of the country to serve consumer markets, with the vast majority, over 95%, going to China for the luxury furniture trade. Despite efforts over the last several years to stem this illegal trade through multiple harvest and export bans, containers of illicit timber continue to leave the ports and beaches on a regular basis.
Vast and highly valuable stockpiles of illegally harvested wood, estimated at over 500,000 logs worth more than $5 billion USD, currently line the towns and shorelines of eastern Madagascar. While some have noted that the potential value of auctioning these stockpiles would provide needed development finance to an impoverished country, such claims often gloss over the dangers of proceeding with such a sale before the country has governance structures in place to ensure it will not exacerbate the ongoing illegal logging crisis. In August 2012, Madagascar Prime Minister Omer Beriziky created a Steering Committee to develop and oversee an action plan to dispose of these accumulated rosewood and ebony stocks. The Steering Committee is working to ensure that efforts to dispose of these stockpiles address the underlying drivers of continued illegal harvest and trade, and are based on principles of good governance and transparency.
The vast quantities of wood currently stockpiled throughout Madagascar and continued shipments of illicit timber from Malagasy shores are evidence of ongoing systemic failures in forest governance. Several local news reports link the continued trade of illegally sourced rosewood and ebony to the current electoral season, as candidates reportedly use proceeds from the illegal precious woods trade to fill their campaign coffers. President Andry Rajoelina’s rush to push through the sale of the rosewood and ebony stockpiles will further isolate Madagascar in the international community. It is also circumventing the internationally recognized process being undertaken by the Steering Committee.
The disposal of seized and illicit stockpiles of rosewood and ebony poses many risks and challenges. The Malagasy government must ensure that natural resources of the country are governed fairly and effectively, including by holding those responsible for this illegal activity accountable, and by developing the robust regulatory framework for its forest resources that has long been lacking. An effective solution to stockpile disposal must ensure measures are taken to guarantee the credibility of the process. Further, any disposal must deter further illegal harvest, avoid stimulating future demand, and benefit local communities who have been most affected.
We have received a copy of the decree which President Andry Rajoelina has had drafted and circulated to key ministers which would authorize the collection, sale and/or auction of these stockpiles. It is our well-informed information that this decree could be signed by the Council of Ministers as early as Wednesday, October 2, 2013. Any such sale and subsequent export to consumer countries would be in clear violation of the recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listing of Madagascar rosewood and ebony species on Appendix II and, therefore, illegal.
We call on the President, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers of Madagascar to oppose any plans for a rapid sale of these vitally important stockpiles of rosewood and ebony. We strongly urge the Steering Committee established by Prime Minister Omer Beriziky to establish a fair, transparent and credible process to dispose of existing stockpiles in a manner that support good governance and is for the benefit of all Malagasy people.
The Environmental Investigation Agency – USA
Conservation International – USA
World Wide Fund for Nature – USA
Wildlife Conservation Society – USA
Friends of the Earth – US
Friends of the Earth – International
Center for Biological Diversity – USA
Earth Day Network – USA
St. Louis Zoo – USA
Charles Welch – SAVA Conservation Project – USA
Observatoire National de l’Environnement et du Secteur Forestier – Madagascar
Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar
GERP association – Madagascar
Madagascar Fauna Group – Madagascar
Erik R. Patel, PhD
Post Doctoral Project Director
Duke University Lemur Center
SAVA Conservation Project – Madagascar
Training & Conservation Coordinator
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust – Madagascar Programme
IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group
International Prosimian Congress 2013 -Madagascar
Partners With Melanesians Inc. – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Managalas Development Foundation Inc. – Oro Province, Papua New Guinea
Ona Keto Peoples Foundation Inc . – Daulo, EHP Papua New Guinea
Karimui Resource Management and Conservation Project Inc. – Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea
Fagaga Incorporated land Group – Central Province, Papua New Guinea
Derimbat Community Develeopment Foundation Inc. – Manus Island, Papua New Guinea
Kemanda-Yogo Bienvenu Florentin
Maison de l’Aenfant et de la Femme Pygmées (MEFP).
Ingénieur des Eaux et Forêts
POINT FOCAL REDD OSCs/ COMPOSANTE RCA – Central African Republic
Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness (ECCEA), West Indies
Ateneo School of Government – Philippines
Founder and Executive Director
SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund - Germany
Reinhard Behrend, Director
Rettet den Regenwald – Rainforest Rescue, Germany
Dr. Sandra Altherr
Pro Wildlife e.V. – Germany
Zoo Zürich – Germany
Presidente SONIA – Italy
Education & Funding Coordinator
Azafady – United Kingdom
Belinda Wright, OBE
Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) – India
Ian C. Colquhoun, Ph.D.
The Centre for Environment & Sustainability
Western University – Canada
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation – Canada
Derek Schuurman, author of Globetrotter Guide to Madagascar (New Holland, 4th ed 2013) and Madagascar Wildlife: A Visitors Guide (Bradt, co-author, 3rd ed 2008).
Tuppence Stone – BBC Producer/Director.
Mark Roberts Objet