Extraction of pies accompanies large fronts of illegal deforestation in the Amazon

The removal of the most expensive wood from the South American equatorial forest follows the main fronts of criminal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Extraction of pies accompanies large fronts of illegal deforestation in the Amazon

Areas where ipês are most illegally exploited are on fronts where deforestation in the Amazon is skyrocketing . Greater domestic consumption and exports encourage the cutting of the endangered species and lead to the destruction of the forest, since the management authorized by public agencies does not meet the demands of the market.

More than 80% of the ipê that reaches the markets comes from 20 municipalities that, as Mongabay found, totaled 159.6 thousand hectares in alerts for deforestation from January to the beginning of July – an area slightly larger than that of the municipality of São Paulo (SP ). The list includes leaders in deforestation such as Altamira (PA), Colniza (MT), Lábrea (AM) and Porto Velho (RO).

In practice, the search for ipês advances from the Arch of Deforestation, where they are already rare or have been eliminated, over public and protected areas, points out the Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Management and Certification (Imaflora).

On average, only 0.5 cubic meters of ipe wood is extracted from each hectare of forest. “For this reason, the 'mining' of the tree enters the Amazon. Cutting, transport, environmental and labor crimes, trade and losses in tax collection are similar to those of illegal gold mining,” said Marco Lentini, project coordinator at Imaflora.

Ipê exploitation is strongest in the north and west of Pará, northwest of Mato Grosso, north of Rondônia and south of Amazonas. The last two regions are in the Abunã-Madeira Sustainable Development Zone, in the BR-319 zone of influence, where both the private sector and the federal and Amazon state governments want more agribusiness. The region is one of the biggest focuses of land grabbing and deforestation for the formation of pastures in the Brazilian Amazon.

“The value of the ipê encourages and finances deforestation and other crimes”, highlighted Lentini. The beautiful and resistant wood is the most expensive in the South American forest. One square meter is currently worth the equivalent of R$15,000 in global markets, where it is used for flooring and furniture. Brazil accounts for almost all (96%) of the ipê used in the world, shows a Forest Trends report . But domestic consumption is another big villain.

Greater control over the origin of the ipe, demanded by large buyers in the European Union and the United States, may have reduced exports of sawn wood by 60% between 2007 and 2019. In the same period, however, extraction more than doubled in the Amazon, which indicates that Brazilian consumers may have absorbed the surplus. And demand grew by 15% during the covid-19 pandemic, mainly due to civil construction in the South and Southeast.

Everything becomes more dramatic because a survey by NGOs showed that, without transparency and reliable public data, it is impossible to separate authorized production from illegal production in five of the seven states that extract the most wood from the Amazon, including ipês. The study raises a high suspicion that crimes accompany the vast majority of products consumed in the country or exported.