Nearly 75 per cent of Myanmar’s timber trade is illegal, accounting for an estimated US$6 billion, according to the Myanmar Times. The majority of this timber has been exported to China, Thailand, and India — without processing.
In the last 14 years, 8 million cubic metres of wood was traded without the permission of the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE). The Central Statistical Organization estimates that Myanmar exported roughly US$442 million of raw teak from April 2013 through January 2014, 40 per cent more than the full-year figure for fiscal 2012.
However, much teak has also been smuggled out of the country. Allegedly, almost US$20 million of raw wood is smuggled across the border that Myanmar shares with China each year. Rumours that Chinese firms illegally cut down trees in Myanmar persist.
Over the last few months, the government has worked on deploying a newly minted forestry police force tasked with fighting the illegal logging and smuggling of timber and wildlife. Some 10,000 illegal loggers have been detained between December and March alone, a Ministry of the Environment official told Irrawaddy magazine.
Industry wisdom states that Myanmar’s formerly uncatalogued and uncounted trees will simply be broken into cants. In the end export volumes will likely be the same, industry experts explained to Madison’s, except will be documented with the government.
Despite a Sino-Myanmar agreement to halt the illegal timber trade reached at the end of 2012, two million cubic metres of logs were shipped through Ruili – China’s main border crossing – during the first 10 months of 2013, according to data collected from traders, said the South China Morning Post Thursday.
An estimated three-fourths of Myanmar’s timber exports – worth about US$5.7 billion – have gone undeclared since 2000, according to the Washington DC-based environmental protection advocacy group, Environmental Investigation Agency. That group said up to 70 per cent of that timber crossed the Chinese border illegally.
At COFI, Zoish Bengali, BC Forestry Innovation Investment (BCFii) representative for India, explained that wood supply (this includes timber, logs, and lumber) is 95 million cubic metres annually. When supply for domestic forests and plantations are combined, India is still at a 17 million cubic metres a year wood deficit.
India imported a little over 6 million cubic metres of logs in 2013, according to the Global Trade Atlas, with a little less than 1 million cubic metres coming from Myanmar.
Canadian softwood lumber exports to India for 2013 amounted to US$10 million, according to Global Trade Atlas, while that from Germany exceeded US$24 million.
BCFii is projecting that India’s softwood lumber imports could approach 2 million cubic metres annually by 2030.
According to Forestry Innovation Consulting India’s April 2014 report to BCFii, the size of the wooden-door market in India is about 35 billion Rupees, or C$644 million.
Bengali also stressed door, and furniture, making as the future source of demand for significant BC softwood lumber exports to India.
The custom-made door segment accounts for 75 per cent of total door demand, while readymade doors amount to only 25 per cent.
Door manufacturers in India want 2×4 to 2×12 R/L dimensions in the 2-inch width, and 2×5, 2×6, and 2×7 R/L dimensions in the 2.5- and 3-inch widths. Coastal species like hemlock, western red cedar, Douglas fir, and yellow cedar could easily substitute the tropical timber and exotic species traditionally used in India, according to industry players and BCFii.
Domestically these boards are resawn, ripped and/or cross-cut, to produce the dozens of parts needed to make doors.