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Background Information on Brazil


Govt. extends mahogany ban for two years

The Brazilian government has extended for a further two years a ban on new mahogany logging operations. The government also promised to announce within 90 days new rules for sustainable logging of the virola tree in the Amazon region. Not mentioned in the following report is a less than enthusiastic response by Roberto Smeraldi of Friends of the Earth’s Amazonia Program, who cautioned that the extension "means that mahogany logging can continue, as up to now, with existing authorizations". Smeraldi points out that "existing authorizations already account for a volume of mahogany which is much higher than the total current demand from both domestic and foreign markets".


BRASILIA, July 28 (Reuters) - Brazil on Tuesday extended for two years a ban on mahogany logging in much of the Amazon, a move environmentalists welcomed as a step towards controlling deforestation.

A decree published in the government gazette said the ban did not apply to sustainable management areas approved before July 1996 nor to planted forests.

It added that the environment ministry and the government's environment Institute (Ibama) would announce within 90 days new rules for sustainable logging of the virola tree in the Amazon region.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the decision was a step in the right direction, extending and tightening a 1996 moratorium on new permits for logging mahogany.

``We think this is a positive measure on the part of the government but it is still not enough,'' said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace's spokesman in Brazil. ``But it does create a legal framework for the fight against the illegal market in mahogany.''

Illegal trading in the prized trees is considered one of the principal causes for deforestation of the Amazon.

Brazil stunned environmentalists in January when it published long-awaited data based on satellite pictures that showed an area twice the size of Belgium -- 23,259 square miles (60,257 square km) -- had been deforested between 1995 and 1997.

Loggers often cause indiscriminate damage to virgin forest when chopping down mahogany and their paths are commonly used by settlers who clear the land to graze cattle.

Government measures have cut the amount of mahogany timber companies are officially allowed to log to 65,000 cubic meters (2.3 million cubic feet) in 1997 from 150,000 cubic meters (5.3 million cubic feet) in 1990, Adario said.

``Companies which are installed in the Amazon have more than enough capacity to provide mahogany to international consumers. Despite this, there has been an important rise in demand for mahogany in the domestic market,'' he added.

Greenpeace has asked the government to tighten controls on the exploitation of the trees by listing its plantings of bigleaf mahogany on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Being listed in the appendices of CITES places curbs of varying tightness on the international trade in a species or product. Ivory and rhino horn are among products so listed.

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