Authorities in Europe have been accused of turning a blind eye to the importation of illegal timber from the Brazilian Amazon.
In a stinging rebuke, Greenpeace said that despite warnings about rampant practices of illegal logging earlier this year, shipments from illegal operations in Brazil continue to land on European shores.
In one example, the organisation says several shipments from Rainbow Trading arrived on the shores of Rotterdam last month en route to Antwerp last month despite the company being on a list of Brazilian exporters and European importers allegedly linked to timber laundering and fraudulent forest management plans which Greenpeace sent to EU officials in May
Stressing the company was not alone, Greenpeace said shipments from the company had arrived on several shores within the EU in the months since the warnings were issued.
“We warned the European timber industry in May that Brazilian sawmills were laundering illegal timber for export,” Greenpeace said. “Rainbow Trading – like many logging companies in the Amazon logging industry – has a string of convictions for crimes connected to illegal logging. There's no way a company could reasonably trust it – or its timber. Yet since May, Rainbow Trading has shipped timber to Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Sweden.”
Greenpeace’s accusations follow its release last month of the results of an investigation in which the organisation used covert GPS locator beacons to monitor logging trucks in the Brazilian state of Pará, where it says around three quarters of timber logged is done so illegally.
According to that report, practices in which trucks travel at night to avoid detection from illegal logging camps to sawmills in Santarém - the centre of the logging industry in the Amazon – are rampant.
Under the EU Timber Regulation which came into force in 2010, timber market operators are prohibited from purchasing illegally harvested timber or products made from such timber and are required to exercise ‘due diligence’ by having adequate access to relevant information about suppliers and origin of product harvest, conducting risk assessments about the prospect of illegal timber use in their supply chain and undertaking appropriate mitigation strategies.
But Greenpeace accuses companies within the European Union of excessive reliance on paperwork to fulfil their obligations – much of which it says is fraudulent.
Around the world, timber supplied through illegal operations represents a significant economic problem as well as an environmental problem.
The World Bank, for instance, reckons the global market loses $US10 billion and governments $US5 billion in lost revenues through such activity, whilst the American Forest & Paper Association estimates that illegal logging depresses world timber prices by between seven and sixteen percent depending on the individual products involved.
Neither the European Commission nor the European Timber Trade Federation responded to requests for comment.