Toledo losing Rosewood at unsustainable rate PART 3

Yesterday PlusNews reported that while logging permits and licenses issued by the forest Deprtment have been decreasing steadily over the years, it has, however, been increasing in the Toledo district. And most of these Toledo permits, 80% of them, have been for the extraction of Rosewood. Likewise, when it comes to the actual exportation of the wood out of the country, PlusNews has been reliably informed that there are close to 40 individuals and companies exporting hardwood out of the Toledo District; 14 of them are exporters of rosewood. But all of them combined do not export even 50% of the total rosewood; as more than half of the legally exported rosewood is being done by one company; GIV Import Export Co Ltd.

Louis Wade Jr. PlusTV Journalist
Is any Vega or relative of Vega having a license to export?

Marcello Windsor
I know that there was one Vega, Giovanni Vega and as far as I know and as far as we have investigated, he is no relative to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Louis Wade Jr.
So he does hold a license?

Marcello Windsor
Yes he does. Anyone can actually get an export license.

GOB lays blame for the extermination of rosewood on the maya communities even as it continues to indiscriminately stamp rosewood flitches and distribute exportation licenses. Yet, a cursory read of the Supreme Court decision in the maya land rights case states: QUOTE “ I order the defendants ,in consultation with the Maya people or their representatives, to develop the legislative, administrative or other measures necessary to create an effective mechanism to identify and protect Maya customary property rights in land in accordance with Maya customary laws and land tenure practices.” UNQUOTE In other words The Government was tasked by the Courts to Develop laws to help PROTECT the Maya Land rights, and not to exploit it. According to Marcello Windor, Deputy Chief Forest Officer, GOB collects $60.00 BZD per ton of rosewood. This same 1 Ton of Belize rosewood fetches some $4200.00 BZD once it reaches Shanghai and Guandong in China. Our calculations show that the gross distribution of finances obtained from Toledo Rosewood is as follows: (CHART)

$ 0.50 maya per 1 cubic ft
$ 1.71 government per 1 cubic ft
$ 4.00 for permit holder per 1 cubic ft
$ 8.00 for middleman per 1 cubic ft
$ 120.00 for exporter per 1 cubic ft
$ 500.00 for finished product per 1 cubic ft

The calculations show that the Mayas involved in the cutting of rosewood receive the least financial benefits, while the Exporters and the Chinese furniture industry is raking in Millions of dollars. And in a few months time, the exploitation will all be over; at least for decades…

This sign posted at the machaca outpost in the Toledo District shows that early this year there was an attempt to stem the flow of rosewood out of the district. The attempt was again made via an e-mail promise to Conservation organizations in the south by Chief Forest Officer Wilbur sabido that said QUOTE “ The Forest Department via my office had informed Machaca about the non-stamping of logs starting from the August 8, 2011 date, this however did not preclude individuals from continuing the commercialization or movement of stamped and unstamped material. UNQUOTE There was also a promise to establish checkpoints and law enforcement interventions in key areas where illegalities are ongoing… but this did not occur at a sufficient rate to stem the exploitation. Even to date, the promised rotation of forest officers has not been forthcoming to the district.

It takes 100 years for a rosewood tree to develop into maturity. But the demand for Belize rosewood in China is threatening the rosewood stocks even beyond the 100 year lifespan of the plant. It appears that the Chinese exporters are now turning to the roots of the rosewood trees themselves. Plusnews understands that one of the suppliers has been approached to provide them with samples of the root of the tree. It seems that they are now interested in also exporting the root of the trees for exotic furniture. Here is a tree stump that was brought out and cleaned to show the exporters costing and quality of what is available.

Louis Wade Jr.
The Chinese are now coming, not only for the timber itself, but also for the root.

Marcello Windsor
The root I definitely advised that that should be a no no.

Louis Wade Jr.
Who are you advising?

Marcello Windsor
We can only tell the Mayan people what will happen next as we are currently doing.

Louis Wade Jr.
So in other words, you are saying that if they continue to extract the root, all you will be able to do is advice them?

Marcello Windsor
We can only advise them; we have no rights, our mandates do not operate within communal lands.

And While the hardwood that is getting the most attention is the rare rosewood, there is another, less publicized wood that is now being exported as rosewood stocks begin to dwindle. Loggers are now turning their attention to the Black Poisonwood; it is now being exported in large volumes by the same large exporters. Observers of the industry are concerned that once the rosewood stocks are exhausted, the forest department will have the same attitude towards other lumber stocks; for example Black poisonwood.

Louis Wade Jr.
Residents in the south are concerned that the same pattern attitude toward the extraction of Rosewood and the modus operandi that your department is carrying out currently with Rosewood that in the next the few months when Rosewood is depleted, that is going to be the very same modus operandi that you will have for other hard woods.

Marcello Windsor
With regards to the modus operandi, we cannot blame the Forest Department, it’s very easy to blame people or any institution. As I rightly read, that court ruling definitely alienates the Forest Department from operating within communal lands.

Louis Wade Jr.
So could you state for the record categorically that your department has no legal authority on communal lands? Could you please state that for the record?

Marcello Windsor
I can actually read it from a letter.

Louis Wade Jr.
No that is just a letter. Just a minute Sir; what is your interpretation Sir? They can write... I can write you a letter and tell you to keep off my land.

Marcello Windsor
That is the government’s position.

Louis Wade Jr.
What is your position?

Marcello Windsor
Well what the umm…

Louis Wade Jr.
What is your department’s legal position?

Marcello Windsor
Our legal position is actually to try to motivate the Mayan people into finding alternative livelihoods.

Plus news will continue to follow this story.

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