Sahabat Telapak

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Press Release

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Press Release 4 April 2006
European and US Consumers Duped into Buying Timber Stolen from Papua's Precious Rainforests

4th April 2006, Jakarta. European and US consumers of merbau hardwood flooring are being misled by major retailers and leading brands into buying illegal timber stolen from the forests of Indonesia's remote Papua Province, revealed Telapak and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today.

A new Telapak/EIA report, entitled 'Behind the Veneer', lifts the veil on the flooring industry and shows how leading retailers across Europe and America, and the global flooring brands they market, are making misleading environmental claims while selling flooring made from merbau which they cannot even prove comes from legal sources.

Telapak/EIA gathered environmental policy information from manufacturers and retailers and conducted undercover investigations into their suppliers. They discovered that while manufacturers and retailers typically claim to buy timber only from carefully managed forests, their suppliers openly admitted to using merbau from unknown sources in Papua, where powerful smuggling syndicates drive massive illegal logging. None could prove their merbau was legal.

Arbi Valentinus, Head of the Forest Campaign at Telapak, said: "Although suppliers and retailers of merbau flooring are not themselves breaking the law, they are profiting from an illegal trade and are misleading their customers into buying products made from stolen timber. These companies need to stop duping their customers and must take urgent steps to ensure the legal origin of their wood."

Illegal logging is rife in Papua, an area recently dubbed 'the Garden of Eden' by international scientists. In January 2005 alone, enough merbau was stolen from Papua to produce flooring worth nearly $600 million at western retail prices. Despite recent enforcement efforts, illegal merbau is still leaking into the market through international smuggling syndicates. These syndicates collude with the Indonesian military and police to exploit and intimidate local communities into accepting less than 15 for a cubic metre of merbau - timber worth nearly $3200 when sold as flooring in the west.

Julian Newman, Head of the Forest Campaign at EIA, said, "European and US consumers would be appalled if they knew that the wood used to make their flooring had been stolen from the poor, indigenous communities of Indonesia's Papua Province. Ultimately, the governments of the European Union and the US should safeguard consumers by preventing retailers from selling products made from stolen timber. However, despite repeated promises to act, no law has been enacted, putting the responsibility on consumers to take action and stop buying merbau products that fuel illegal logging."

A team of Indonesian civil society representatives have this week returned from a tour of European capital cities, during which they appealed to governments to ban the import and sale of illegally sourced timber and wood products. The group met with senior officials from a number of EU member states, including a UK government minister. They also called on Europe to urgently negotiate a partnership agreement with Indonesia to eliminate the trade in stolen timber, including processed products.

Telapak/EIA are also calling on the Indonesian government to improve enforcement and prosecute the powerful syndicate leaders and their backers in the military and police. They say laws and regulations must be reformed where necessary to ensure that logging is sustainable and benefits indigenous communities.


For further information, please contact: Mardi Minangsari, Telapak,
tel:+62-811-11-1918/+62-21-835-2324; email: mardi_minangsari@telapak.org
Copies of the report, still images and video footage are available on request.

Editor's Notes 

  • Over 70 per cent of Indonesia's original frontier forests have already been lost, and each year an area the size of Belgium is destroyed. Eighty per cent of logging in Indonesia is illegal.

  • Recent studies indicate that the EU imported at least 3 billion of illegal timber and wood products in 2004, with Indonesia the largest source (0.9 billion).

  • Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between EU and a particular producing country is a component under Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, an initiative by the EU to eliminate the trade in stolen timber in Europe.

  • Telapak is an independent, environmental group based in Bogor, Indonesia committed for social and ecological justice. More information at www.telapak.org

  • The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is the world's leading organisation dedicated to investigating and exposing environmental crime. More information at www.eia-international.org

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