A new study has revealed Ghana is illegally under-declaring its rosewood exports to China in breach of international conventions.
Analysis by a researcher at the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) William K. Dumenu shows there are “huge discrepancies and inconsistencies” in export and import volumes as declared by Ghana and China.
There are also discrepancies in the figures reported to the Convention on International Treaty on Endangered Species (CITES) trade database. CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals ratified by 182 countries.
According to the report, in 2016, Ghana reported it exported 96,549m3 of rosewood to China. But data from China Customs show that the country imported 205,659m3 from Ghana.
Also, between January and March 2018, Ghana reported it had exported 34,644m3 of rosewood to China but data from China shows 92,215m3 of rosewood was imported from Ghana.
The situation was the same in 2013 with Ghana reporting it had exported 58,569m3 but data from the customs in China show 89,572m3of rosewood was imported from Ghana.
The study published in the Biological Conservation Journal said the discrepancies in the export and import data are strongly suggestive of considerable incidence of illegal trade.
The revelation comes on the back of an equally troubling report by the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) in the USA which claimed powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country.
This the group said is done through “the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government” despite a government ban.
It said they have established an institutionalised scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport and export of rosewood.
Government has since 2012 banned the felling of rosewood but the illegal trade has continued, mainly under the guise of salvaging already downed rosewood. Earlier this year, a Joy News documentary ‘Killing Our Roses’ highlighted how the ban was being flouted resulting in continuous felling of the species.
It is believed the under-declaration of the figures is an attempt to create the impression export volumes from Ghana are less but the figures from China appear to expose the true value of exports.
The Forestry Commission in a statement issued recently claimed from 2012 to May 2019, a total of 300,368.94m3 of rosewood products had been exported from Ghana which translates into 257,230 trees approximately.
But an analysis by Washington DC-based not for profit, Environmental Investigative Agency says over 540,000 tons or approximately 6 million trees – had been illegally harvested and exported to China over the same period.
“The discrepancies and inconsistencies strongly indicate that large quantities of undeclared (potential illegally traded) volumes of rosewood are traded without compliance with CITES….,” the report said.
The study additionally notes the felling and export ban has not yet had a significant impact on reducing exploitation of rosewood in Ghana.
“While the ban was operative, exploitation has rather increased by 129%. Exploitation in the face of an active ban is just a reflection of what has and is happening in many range countries in West Africa…” the report noted.
Kidan Araya who is Africa Program Campaigner for Environmental Investigation Agency says the “discrepancies show there is a large amount of rosewood being taken out of the country illegally” and is causing environmental destruction which is worrying.
The researcher wants government to institute an official probe into the issue.
“(The discrepancies) could come from the traders themselves or the officials. On the side of the regulator, it could also impute some kind of corruption because if the trader rightly declares what he or she is going to export and you under right the figure, then this is something bothering on corruption. But of course, you can only be sure its corruption if you investigate to establish that…” the researched William Dumenu told Joy News.