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Chinese growth cuts into Papua wood PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Sunday, 20 February 2005 06:38

Chinese growth cuts into Papua wood

By Hamish McDonald -- Beijing -- February 19, 2005

Illegal logging in Indonesia is allegedly feeding the huge demand for hardwood timber in China. As china overtakes the US as the focus of world raw materials trade, its voraciousness is causing criticism in other quarters. A report this week by two environmental groups has alleged that the hardwood trees of Indonesia's Papua province are being felled andsmuggled to China in a billion-dollar-a-year trade that threatens one of the last major tropical forests remaining in South-East Asia and the Pacific.


The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency and Indonesian groupTelapak said logging syndicates were paying bribes of about $US200,000($A255,000) a ship to get logs out of Indonesia.

Indonesia bans the export of unprocessed lumber, and signed an agreementin December 2002 with China to fight the illegal trade in forestproducts, yet about 300,000 cubic metres of the prime hardwood calledmerbau leaves Papua for China every month, the activists allege.

"China's eclipse of the United States as a consumer nation should beseen as another milestone along the path of its evolution as a worldeconomic leader," said environmentalist Lester Brown, of Washington'sEarth Policy Institute, in a new survey published this week.AdvertisementAdvertisement

"China is no longer just a developing country," he said. "It is anemerging economic superpower, one that is writing economic history."

The institute's report said China's massive appetite for goods rangingfrom grain to platinum had placed it "at the centre of the world rawmaterials economy . . . Its voracious appetite for materials was drivingup not only commodity prices but ocean shipping rates as well."

Countries with sometimes dubious regimes such as Sudan and Gabon arebeing courted as oil suppliers. Chinese banks are channelling $US6billion into Russia to help President Vladimir Putin's renationalisationof the oil industry, in return for guaranteed oil supplies.

On a tour of Latin America last year, Chinese President Hu Jintaoannounced deals worth $US30 billion, mostly related to resources, andsaid China wanted to spend a total $US100 billion there over the next 10years. Argentina, a major source of meat and soybeans, was declared a"strategic" partner, on a par with Australia, which was accorded thesame status by Beijing last year.

The alleged illegal trade in timber shows this demand can have itsnegative side. According to the two activist groups, Papuan communitiesare paid only $US10 a cubic metre for trees taken from their land.

Traders ship the lumber with false Malaysian documents of origin andquarantine clearances to the Yangtze delta port of Zhangjiagang nearShanghai. They are then sent to sawmills in the town of Nanxun, fetchingabout $US270 a cubic metre.

About 500 manufacturers in Nanxun turn the planks into luxury hardwoodfloors for the well-off Chinese. The Chinese interior fittings andfurniture chain Oriental Home is selling merbau for the equivalent of$US1250 a cubic metre.

"Papua has become the main illegal logging hotspot in Indonesia," saidTelapak head Yayat Afianto, in a statement released in Jakarta.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 February 2005 06:38

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