Published On: Sun, Apr 15th, 2018

Guitar Makers Hit Hard by Rosewood Regulations

A worldwide crackdown on illegal logging in tropical forests has hit the guitar industry hard. High-end guitars require small amounts of rosewood, which is prized for its resonant sound and rich grain.

The new trade rules have been in effect nearly a year, and guitar makers say there have been long delays in getting permits to import the wood. It’s also taking longer than expected to export guitars that contain rosewood.

Guitar manufacturers are filling warehouses with unsold instruments. A bagpipe maker in New Hampshire asked the governor to intervene after a permit application was lost.

photo/ free stock photos via pixabay

Chris Martin, CEO of C.F. Martin and Co., said he is “distraught” by the situation. His company uses rosewood in 200 acoustic guitar models, some of which are played by Ed Sheeran, Eric Clapton and Sting.

“We have orders for the guitars,” said Martin. “We have customers. The customers have the money to pay for them, and we can’t ship them because the paperwork is stuck somewhere.”

C.F. Martin and Co.’s logistics staff says it spends nearly 40% of its time dealing with new regulations.

Governments adopted new regulations to stem a growing smuggling problem in rosewood forests across Asia and Africa. Rosewood was being smuggled out to China’s luxury furniture manufacturers. These restrictions have hurt companies that manufacture musical instruments, as small amounts of rosewood are used in clarinets, guitars and oboes.

The restrictions mean that new players, whether learning from an instructor or through an online guitar course like Guitar Tricks, will have to wait longer for their guitars to arrive. Fewer guitars are being exported, too, which further hurts the industry.

Acoustic guitar exports in the U.S. fell by around 28% months after the regulations went into effect. Electric guitar exports fell 23%, according to Music Trades magazine.

Music retailers reportedly lost $60 million.

The United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora expanded the trade rules of rosewood to include 300 species known as Dalbergia. Initially, the rules covered a few species, including Brazilian rosewood, which is especially endangered.

Under the new rules, permits are also required to create products using the wood, including violins, guitars, bagpipes and xylophones. Companies that had previously not been required to obtain a permit had just three months to comply.

California-based Taylor Guitars reportedly lost tens of thousands of dollars due to delays and confusion surrounding its shipments to some 30 countries.

The regulations were proposed by governments in Latin America and Africa to stem the rosewood smuggling that had endangered the species over the last decade. The smuggling was primarily orchestrated by criminal gangs taking advantage of relaxed regulations. The gangs reportedly stripped rosewood forests in Central America, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

The illegal logging practice also destroyed a key source of food for many crucial species, including butterflies, bees and other insects.

About 10,000 metric tons of protected rosewood was seized between 2005 and 2014, says Forest Trends. The majority of the wood was headed to China, where rosewood imports soared 2,000 percent in that same time period.

Author: Jacob Maslow


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