An end in CITES

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CITES logo

The United Kingdom’s leading pipemakers have welcomed the announcement from CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) that African blackwood exports will no longer be subject to a licence.

From November 26, any exports of new bagpipes made from African blackwood will no longer be passed on to the customer. The extra cost was between £65-£85 (c$90US-$105).

Earlier this spring, it had appeared that CITES was softening the restrictions and at its conference held a couple of weeks ago in Geneva, Switzerland, the organisation confirmed that finished instruments made of dalbergia melanoxylon (African blackwood) should be exempt from protection legislation, Tanzania is the main source of this wood.

An Africa blackwood tree.
An Africa blackwood tree.

The licence meant that since the spring of 2017 purchases of African blackwood were regulated at both the import and manufacturing stage, something many manufacturers and customers believed was unnecessary. Sales of highland bagpipes and practice chanters – as well as repairs – were never seriously affected by the two-year-old law. The main issue was one of time-consuming administration for manufacturers.

Some restrictions on dalbergia melanoxylon and other protected wood species will remain for importers and exporters, however, and the rule change is dependent on manufacturers buying their blackwood from legitimate and licensed hardwood importers, something British bagpipe makers stress they already comply with. 

Alastair Dunn of R. G. Hardie & Co. said: “We are delighted with the news that from the end of November CITES permits will no longer be required for musical instruments. The cost and administration savings from this decision will be passed onto our customers. I didn’t see the logic in requiring permits for every level of the supply chain and across every border the blackwood item might travel. We fully support the sustainable and ethical harvesting of blackwood which our suppliers adhere to.”

Kenny MacLeod of McCallum Bagpipes said: ““It’s a great thing for the bagpipe-making industry that these changes have been made. It is, of course, completely correct that we should have a CITES certificate applied to us when we buy the wood. That proves it’s been bought from a sustainable grower. But there really was no reason that we then had to then apply a CITES to businesses that were buying from us. It was an extra level of bureaucracy that really wasn’t required, and made it expensive for dealers who were buying smaller blackwood items. It’s very good news indeed.”

Craig Munro of Wallace Bagpipes said: “This is great news for not only the industry but the whole piping world. The CITES procedure has been damaging to business worldwide as I’m sure we’ve all experienced.”

CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “Humanity needs to respond to the growing extinction crisis by transforming the way we manage the world’s wild animals and plants. Business as usual is no longer an option. CITES conserves our natural world by ensuring that international trade in wild plants and animals is legal, sustainable and traceable. Well-managed trade also contributes to human wellbeing, livelihoods and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

CITES conference in Geneva
At its meeting in Geneva at the end of August, the conference discussed animals and marine species as well as tree species.