Amazon edges toward eco-friendly

An encouraging story about a successful ecoforestry project in the Amazon. Demand for ecologically certified timber from the Amazon far exceeds supply.

MANAUS - A 100-foot (30-metre) massaranduba tree slowly falls toward the Amazon floor, cutting a thick gash through the dense tropical jungle and landing with a deafening roar.

The massaranduba tree, which has wood that is rose  when first cut but later turns a plum red, was carefully selected and cut in such a way that it would fall in an area where it would hurt few other trees or seedlings.    oloured This is environmentally friendly logging by Brazil's Mil Madeireira forestry company, a model held up by conservationists this week in their fight to stop the devastation of the world's largest tropical rainforest.    But as hardwood buyers and sellers gathered in Brazil's steamy.

Amazon capital Manaus to seek ways to preserve the nation's vast rainforests, it was clear that demand for wood from environmentally friendly sources far exceeded supply.

Conservationists at the event said they were joining the timber traders
in their fight to stop mass devastation of the Amazon and hoped to
encourage better use of wood from certified "well-managed" forests.

Delegates said supply of the wood was falling far short of the demand from Europe and the United States. There is also a growing Brazilian market for tropical hardwood products.

"I am getting calls from people from Brazil and abroad asking where they can buy certified wood," said Garo Batmanian, Brazilian branch director of the World Wide Fund for Nature, a leading environment group and one of the event's sponsors.

One of the aims of "The First Workshop of Sustainable Forest Production in the Amazon," partially sponsored by the World Bank, is to
show loggers in the region how to map, select, cut, and transport their tropical hardwood with the least possible damage to the forest.

These logging practices used by Mil Madeireira cost some 30 percent more than the traditional methods - but the company says the final bill can be cut by wasting less wood and stresses that the result is a healthier surrounding of trees.

"Forty trees I cut, 40 trees I carry out. It is all in the planning," Joao Cruz, Mil's forestry director told fellow Amazon loggers as his teams linked up felled trunks to be dragged down a small path.

Mil operates in its own forest of the same name, the only native one in the Brazilian Amazon to have certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the leading forestry certifying group that has put its seal of approval on 42.5 million acres (17 million hectares) worldwide to promote sustainable forestry.

But other delegates said the fact that Brazil only has one certified native forest, whose size is just 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares), is taking the wind out of companies' sails.

Tramontina, a large Brazilian tools and furniture company, is feeling pressure from European buyers to get FSC certification for the wood used in its garden furniture. But director Luiz Ongaratto says he cannot find enough certified wood.

"All the Europeans are requiring certification," Ongaratto said. "I have competitors around the world that are plastering certification all over their catalogues."

Major furniture retailers Tok & Stok face similar problems and see the lack of FSC approval as an obstacle to their plans to sell certified furniture to young upwardly-mobile customers in wealthy Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

"Our customers want more but our reaction is very slow," said Tok & Stok President Regis Dubrule, adding that he had already pledged to give preference to certified suppliers.

Conservationists say the large local retailers must be co-opted in the battle to preserve the Amazon as it is Brazil - particularly its prosperous southeast and south - which buys 86 percent of the nation's tropical hardwood.

For every five trees cut in the Amazon, which produces 935 million cubic feet (28 million cubic meters) of hardwood per year, one ends up in Sao Paulo state, whose population is 34 million.

Source: Reuters October 8, 1999 Story by Mary Milliken