The Chinese voracity with regard to African raw materials has no limit: minerals, oil, fauna and flora are exploited intensively. This is also the case with wood, of which 75% of production goes to China, making it the third most imported raw material by the Middle Kingdom.
According to the NGO Greenpeace, which has just published a survey on this subject, a large part of the forests are exploited illegally. Wood is exported raw to China where it is processed before being re-exported mainly to Europe. All in often opaque conditions. Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo and Mozambique are in the front line.
In particular, Greenpeace focused on timber from Cameroon and Congo. With over 250 million hectares, the Congo Basin is the second largest forest in the world. It supports more than 75 million people who depend on it for their livelihoods, as well as endangered animal species such as gorillas and chimpanzees.
Sales of $ 6 billion
The NGO survey focuses mainly on the Cameroonian company CCT (Trade and Transport Company ) which is the largest exporter of logs in the country. The NGO has moved the Cameroonian forest sector back to the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang (east of China), where importers benefit from particularly lax legislation. This free trade zone, built in 1992, is only one and a half hours from Shanghai.
Of the approximately 300 identified companies that import African timber , some thirty percent of the volumes transported are concentrated. They are mainly companies from four southeastern provinces: Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu where the port of Zhangjiagang is located . It is here, on the banks of the Yangtze River, that most of the Chinese wood industry is concentrated . In total, the turnover of these wood manufacturers amounts to 6 billion dollars.
But the main scandal of this illegal exploitation is the trade in precious and protected species, such as rosewood from Madagascar . A wood rather used in the manufacture of furniture for an affluent clientele. In the Congo Basin there are more than 10,000 tropical wood species, one third of which are endemic to this region.
Between 2000 and 2013, nearly nine million hectares of forests have disappeared. A disaster for biodiversity. In Gabon, for example, the illegal exploitation of Kevazingo, a precious wood, is particularly repressed. Last year, twenty-six people, including five Chinese, were arrested near Makokou, northeast Gabon, as part of the fight against illegal logging. Gabon is one of the main exporters of this rare essence of Central Africa, with nearly 18,000 m 3exported each year. This wood is used to make solid furniture, parquet and moldings, or musical instruments.
China closes eyes
Demand for Kevazingo has exploded in recent years, boosting its price. According to Luc Mathot, head of the NGO Conservation Justice, the Cubic Meter now ranges between 1,500 and 3,000 Euros once in China, a damning report that denounces a “genuine mafia Wood and corruption on all floors “ .
These countries have become so dependent on China that they accept all the conditions imposed by their main customer. According to the Institute International for Environmentand Development (IIED), Mozambique 90% of the wood and share for China, half of which would come from illegal logging.
While the European Union and the United States have strengthened their legislation on imports of African timber, China, on the other hand, turns a blind eye. To prevent wild deforestation, IIED set up an observatory two years ago, bringing together African, Chinese and mainland foresters, leading China to adopt a code of good conduct in the area, Import of wood from Africa. For African countries, this must also be an opportunity to put in place a responsible industry of wood, as virtuous as vital to their economies.
Source: Le Monde.f