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Article

From a forest in Papua New Guinea to a floor in Sydney: how China is getting rich off Pacific timber

1 June 2021

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Illegal logging contributes between 15% and 30% of the global wood trade, according to Interpol. China is a major buyer of the world’s illegal timber, according to environmental groups, especially from Pacific nations like PNG and Solomon Islands, which are implicated in illegal or unsustainable logging.

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Much of PNG’s exported timber – worth more than US$620m in 2019 – comes from special agricultural business leases, the controversial land leases which were declared illegal in 2016 but mostly continued to operate regardless.

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In its investigation, Global Witness identified seven companies exporting flooring to the US, potentially made from illegally harvested PNG timber, in breach of US law.

It contacted 10 US companies selling taun wood products, including the homewares giant Home Depot, which told the organisation it had already discontinued some lines, but asked to collaborate on expanding its sustainable purchasing policies. Its supplier, Home Legend, told Global Witness it had decided to stop buying flooring made with PNG and Solomon Islands wood, “due to the risks associated with sourcing from these countries”.

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