Kenya seizes illegal Hong Kong-bound rosewood

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:16am

Kenyan authorities have seized illegally logged rosewood worth some US$13 million from a Hong Kong-bound ship in what is thought to be the biggest seizure of its kind.

The rosewood, held in 34 shipping containers, was being shipped from Madagascar to Hong Kong via Kenya when it was seized on Monday at the Kenyan port of Mombasa - one of the busiest in East Africa. The timber was said to weigh 640 tonnes. It was believed the rosewood, after arriving in Hong Kong, would be smuggled into mainland China, where it is used to make luxury hongmu furniture.

Earlier reports said Siamese rosewood from the Mekong region was nearing extinction because of the soaring demand in China in recent years. As the timber becomes scarcer, the price is increasing, making the illegal logging problem even worse.

Earlier last month, Shenzhen authorities seized some 660kg kilograms of rosewood from Myanmar, smuggled via Hong Kong.

Hongmu is a style of intricately carved Chinese wooden furniture. In the past, it was made for the Chinese emperors.

David Tse, general manager of the Shenfat furniture company in Shenzhen, which specialises in hongmu, said huge demand had pushed up prices in recent years. A rosewood chair could sell for over one million yuan (HK$1.24 million) - up from about 300,000 yuan two years ago, he said.

The Environmental Investigation Agency said the rosewood seized on Monday was grown in Madagascar. The group said: "The ongoing crisis of illegal logging in Madagascar is wreaking havoc on the country's extraordinary biodiversity and its hopes for sustainable development."

Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung