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Forests

Gone With the Wind

China's Balsa Wood Consumption is Exposing Flaws in Peru's Forest Regulations and Enforcement Regime

By Alfredo Rodriguez Zunino, Marigold Norman, and Sofia Tenorio Fenton
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Global demand for balsa wood has skyrocketed over the last several years, driven by rising demand for renewable wind energy as the world attempts to transition away from fossil fuels. Soft and lightweight, balsa wood is one of the preferred core materials for wind turbine blades.

The volumes of balsa now traded on international markets have risen rapidly, with over 90 percent exported from Ecuador. China now purchases 50 percent of the balsa sawnwood in international trade, while other key markets for balsa include the European Union, Brazil, and the United States.

To satisfy the soaring global demand over the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2021, Ecuador supplemented its own domestic production using balsa harvested in Peru. Peru’s balsa exports have skyrocketed, with limited information available on the source, overall supply chain, and structure of the industry. This report provides an overview of the booming balsa global supply chain, with a focus on exposing how the current regulatory and enforcement structures in Peru are rife with loopholes that can be exploited by illegal loggers and how these countries’ enforcement authorities are unable to verify legality of  the wood.