UPDATE: On August 26th a key committee for CITES has approved a request for musical instruments to be exempted from the restrictions related to rosewood. It is expected to be finalised this week and will result in instruments containing rosewood being allowed to be freely traded worldwide again.
Read more about this here.
Did you know that rosewood is now a protected species?
Recently whilst chatting to a few readers on Facebook, it has become apparent to me that some of you aren’t yet aware of these newly introduced regulations which could potentially affect us guitarists. So here’s what you need to know!
This information is correct at the time of writing, however talks and negotiations are still taking place on the subject, so changes to legislation could still occur at a later date.
CITES Rosewood Status Update
The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) was held late last year, and it was decided that all species of rosewood (as well as 3 species of Bubinga) should be listed in CITES Appendix II as an ‘at risk’ species. Brazilian rosewood has been listed in CITES Appendix I since 1992 as being threatened with extinction.
This means that as of January 2nd 2017, all products containing any rosewood will require permits to be imported or exported internationally. However, regulations may vary slightly depending on location. For example, guitars can still be freely traded within the European Union. More on this below…
Why Have These Restrictions Been Imposed?
It was found that rosewood has become a major target of illegal activity, accounting for up to 35% of the value of seizures of illegally exported animals and plants worldwide. A shocking statistic!
The vast majority of these illegal seizures are the result of a massive increase in demand from China for luxury ‘Hongmu’ (rosewood) furniture. In fact, from a total of almost 9000 metric tons of seized rosewoods from 2007-2015, almost 8000 tons is attributed to China.
What Does This Mean For Guitar Brands?
Manufacturers who import rosewood for use in building guitars will need an accompanying CITES import certificate from the country of origin to ensure that the woods have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced. They will also require an export or re-export certificate if shipping finished products internationally.
It also means that companies who already had sizeable rosewood stocks when the new legislations were put in place will need to apply for additional permits. Depending on how long the wood has been stockpiled for, this could potentially mean that some brands might find it impossible to trace the origins of their woods. Some companies have already stated that they are now unwilling to ship rosewood guitars internationally. Smaller companies and luthiers have also stated that the cost of compliance could very well put them out of business. Examples of the application costs within the UK can be seen here.
These extra steps and costs will likely mean that the price of rosewood will rise. This has already resulted in numerous brands sourcing a rosewood alternative for building. You’ll notice that many guitars which had previously been equipped with a rosewood fingerboard will now use ebony or other alternatives instead.
What Does This Mean For You?
If you are buying or selling guitars domestically there will probably be no impact on you at all. Probably! As I’ve already stated above, guitars can be freely traded within the EU, but anyone can still be challenged to prove that the guitar was legally imported before or after the sale. If you buy a guitar containing rosewood, make sure to keep all receipts and documents just in case!
Thankfully. travelling with your guitar is totally fine unless the combined weight of all rosewood parts exceeds 10kg (22lbs). Unlikely!
All being well, these new laws are only likely to affect you if you are buying or selling a guitar internationally. If the guitar being shipped contains any rosewood, the seller will need to obtain the correct CITES certificate before dispatching.
There is an application fee associated with these new certificates, and the permits are likely to take a good amount of time to be issued (45-60 days according to the US Fish and Wildlife service). This will likely result in a lot of sellers/stores flat up refusing to ship rosewood guitars out of the country.
Talks are currently taking place in the hopes of lessening regulations on products such as guitars which contain very small amounts of rosewood.
- UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/wildlife/World_Wildlife_Crime_Report_2016_final.pdf
- US Fish and Wildlife Service https://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/questions-and-answers-appendix-II-timber-listings-December-2016.pdf
- New CITES Trade Rules – https://cites.org/eng/new_CITES_trade_rules_come_into_effect_as_2017_starts_02012017