Gene Reitz Courtesy of the Author 2004-2005
There are rumors circulating that Genuine Mahogany will not be available for much longer and therefore customers who use it should start changing to other species. It is true that supplies are not what they used to be. Much of the Mahogany left in Brazil is on Indian reservations and cannot be legally logged at this time. Eventually the Brazilians may start exporting again but restrictions are so severe that most former exporters feel it is simply too difficult to meet all the requirements and get through maze of controls that have been put in place. They are dedicating their efforts to the logging of other species or simply going into other businesses like cattle raising. Central America (Guatemala and Nicaragua) were logged over almost completely for Mahogany in the first half of the 20th century.
There are secondary forests with new growth Mahogany but volumes exported are small and no more than 5% of all Mahogany production comes from this area. Bolivia has very much the same situation. That leaves Peru where serious logging of Mahogany only began about 10 years ago. Peru has the largest reserves of Mahogany. With the implementation of CITES II and a crackdown on illegal logging, production of Mahogany has dropped sharply. CITES II regulations require proof that the wood has been produced on approved areas with management plans that ensure the survival of the species. Compliance with CITES II should eventually eliminate illegal logging that has been the main source of Mahogany.
As the regulations are more strictly enforced, production will drop (already dropped 40% this year) but eventually it will stabilize with wood only being logged on Government approved and managed areas. Our Supplier has made it a policy to work only with exporters who produce legally harvested Mahogany. Our suppliers have not been negatively affected by the new regulations and in fact are helped by them. Their main problem has been the illegal loggers who invade their areas with only chainsaws and virtually steal the Mahogany. Much of the wood is wasted in the crude transformation of the tree into blocks of wood that are physically hauled out of the forest and floated down the rivers. In fact in almost all cases the illegal logger is a man with a chainsaw and virtually nothing else except occasionally a small portable circular saw.
Our Supplier is working closely with the largest environmentalist group in the world. This is the World Wildlife Fund. This group is actively involved in promoting good forestry in Peru and stopping the illegal logging of Mahogany. The WWF will soon provide us with their” Responsible Buyer” Certificate for our help in enrolling our Mahogany suppliers in their program of Pre-Certification. They provide free technical aid and assistance in the formulation of management plans that meet the criteria of CITES II and also for final Certification by the FSC of their wood.
For other exporters (without their own production) they will provide chain of custody Certification to guarantee that the wood came from legal sources. Hopefully within a year part of our Mahogany should be FSC Certified. The primary benefit for us and our customers is that once the product is Certified (or even during the process leading to Certification) the flow of Mahogany from the forest to the mills and eventually to our customers is not likely to be interrupted as happened in the case of Brazil.
WWF is also interested in working with our customers and signing them up as “Responsible Buyers”. This requires simply the word of the customer that he will endeavor to buy Mahogany only from legal and environmentally correct sources for which they will receive a Certificate from WWF that they can then show to the customers of their products to demonstrate that they have been produced from material that has been harvested from properly managed forests. This is not FSC Certification but is the first step towards it.
Our Supplier looks forward to continued supplies of Genuine Mahogany from properly managed forests and by working closely with environmental NGOs and strict compliance with CITES Regulations, we hope to avoid the disasters of Brazil where illegal logging has caused the almost total stoppage in the flow of Mahogany and the seizure of huge stocks there and in the U.S. ports.