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15 Aug, 2019 09:58

Lost forests: Russia considers banning lumber exports to China over concerns about illegal logging

Lost forests: Russia considers banning lumber exports to China over concerns about illegal logging

Moscow may impose a full embargo on lumber exports to its largest trade partner, China, if Beijing fails to deal with illegal logging, Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has warned.

“China should have a clear understanding that if it fails to engage in solving this problem, we will have no other choice but to ban the export of  lumber completely,” minister Dmitry Kobylkin told Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper.

"They come, buy up the [illegal] timber and leave us to clear up the debris," Kobylkin said of Chinese loggers.

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The minister has already asked Chinese law enforcement to take on the illegal loggers, and says the problem can be solved only if the Chinese take concrete steps. As an example, he suggested the building of special seed-growing facilities and replant trees to restore the lost forests “for our children and grandchildren.”

In July, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that illegal logging increases the risk of floods, after rising water devastated the Russian Siberian region of Irkutsk, leaving more than 10 people dead and driving thousands from their homes.

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Shortly after the severe flooding, wildfires started to rage in Irkutsk, Yakutia, Krasnoyarsk and some other regions, burning more than 2,5 million hectares of forest. Russian prosecutors suspect the fires were deliberately set to cover up illegal logging.

Russia is the leading supplier of lumber to China and accounts for around 30 percent of the country’s imports of the material, according to Forbes. In 2017, year-on-year exports rose 23 percent and reached $4.8 billion.

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