On March 14, the United Nations Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) announced new restrictions on trade of various plant and animal species, including 100 species of tropical hardwood. International trade in a range of rosewoods and ebonies from Asia, Central America, and Madagascar will now be regulated by CITES. The joint program between CITES and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) will support the efforts of the countries concerned, to strengthen their capacities to implement the Convention. The CITES agreement was signed by 170 countries, including most major timber exporters, e.g. Brazil, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Madagascar.
In the last two decades, the use of tropical hardwood in the developed world, especially in European Union countries, has come under scrutiny. Most countries in the European Union require tropical hardwood imports to be Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified. The changes required to get FSC certification likely raise the production costs, and as a result the use of tropical hardwood has fallen significantly from 1998 to 2007 in Europe. The recent announcement from CITES is now applying screws from the supply side. To date, CITES has applied restrictions on trade of endangered animal species such as sharks and polar bears. To our knowledge, this is the first instance where it has included any wood species under its rules. If implemented effectively, the new restrictions will boost the demand for modified wood products that have shown promise of hardwood performance, such as the furfuryl-alcohol-impregnated softwoods from Kebony and flavonoidimpregnated softwood materials being developed at the Max Planck Institute (client registration required). Clients interested in modified wood materials should focus on the European market and applications that require durability, such as boardwalks and decking.