Russia has about 25% of the world's forest reserves. The largest buyer is China, which receives about 20 million cubic meters annually. The main forest resources are located in Siberia and the Far East. The varieties of trees and wood there are in many ways similar to those that grow in China.
Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash, which are valued for their beautiful cut pattern, are exported from Primorye. If you export them according to the rules, then it is quite difficult, says Larisa Butenko, an entrepreneur from Primorye in the field of wood processing. Special permits are required in the form of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). That is, the documents for timber are checked first, and then it is exported to China.
However, due to the coronavirus, the legal forest business suffers losses. Buyers of coastal timber from China living in Russia, before the start of the pandemic, left for the Middle Kingdom to celebrate the Eastern New Year, but could not get back because of the closure of the borders. Therefore, the number of wholesale buyers decreased, supply exceeded demand, which is why prices for round timber decreased. It is extremely unprofitable to work in such conditions, market participants say.
In addition, in the Primorsky Territory, wood processors have slowed down the pace of work. The thing is that on the border with China, due to restrictive measures, huge queues of trucks are formed. Until recently, trucks with timber stood idle at the border for weeks, thereby causing huge losses, says Butenko. According to her, delays in transportation still occur. This can damage the wood in the truck.
“All this together led to the fact that logging became either unprofitable or on the verge of profitability”, - says the Primorsky entrepreneur. Therefore, while some businessmen have paused their activities.
According to Butenko, 7 million cubic meters of forest can be cut down without damaging the ecosystem in the Primorsky Territory. Now sawed about 4.5 million cubic meters, according to VostokMedia. But these are only official figures that do not take into account illegal logging.
The article "Chinese Presence in Russia: Interim Results" states that up to 1.5 million cubic meters of timber is illegally cut down in Primorye annually, which brings about $ 150 million to shadow structures. This figure is comparable to half of the regional budget. To increase income and legalize exported timber, prices, volumes and quality of supplies are understated, double bills and fly-by-night companies are used.
“Black” loggers are constantly identified in Primorye. So, in 2018, in Primorye, the criminal activities of a transnational group that smuggled timber to China were suppressed. In total, the "businessmen" illegally exported more than 20 thousand cubic meters of oak and ash - more than 450 million rubles. To do this, the attackers formed a package of fictitious documents, and also submitted customs declarations on behalf of one-day firms. Several members of the criminal group have already received suspended sentences.
In addition, at the beginning of 2019, employees of the Far Eastern Operational Customs and the FSB in the Primorsky Territory revealed the smuggling of almost 15 thousand cubic meters of valuable wood species, which were exported to China under fake documents. The entrepreneurs used a local firm, on behalf of which they entered into a foreign trade contract with a Chinese company. When declaring the forest, the attackers provided inaccurate data on the origin of the exported goods. As a result, 14.7 thousand cubic meters of Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash sawn timber worth 691.5 million rubles were exported to China.
These are just a couple of examples of what happens regularly. And this is only what comes to light. It is scary to imagine the real scale of the disaster. Even worse are the “cleansing” operations carried out by “black” lumberjacks to cover up the crimes. As the practice of last year's fires in Siberia has shown, “black” lumberjacks are involved in forest fires.
Several options are possible. The first is that “black” lumberjacks cover up the traces of illegal logging with the help of arson, that is, it is not the forests that are burning, but what is left of them. The second - the interested persons set fire to the forests, while the fire almost does not affect the tree trunks. They need this in order to get a contract for the sanitary felling of "burnt" trees at a lower price. In fact, they send the unaffected timber to China at the same price.
The first that the fires served as a cover for illegal logging was at that time the chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Krasnoyarsk Territory Tatyana Davydenko. “Where fires are not extinguished, someone needs it. This means that it is necessary to hide either the theft of the forest, or some other criminal activity, ”she said.
Later, the head of the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection, Vladimir Burmatov, noted that the fires coincide with the places where the felling of "black" lumberjacks had previously been recorded. This version was confirmed in 2019 by the Prosecutor General's Office. According to the ministry, in the first half of the year alone, 27.3 thousand violations of legislation in the field of forest use were recorded.
At the same time, one gets the impression that such activities are carried out with the tacit consent of regional officials. How else to explain that from March to August 2019 they did not take measures to eliminate fires in the forests of Siberia, in connection with which the fires spread to large areas, the Investigative Committee reports.
But Russia is not alone in this issue. An absolutely mirrored situation is taking place on the other side of the world - in Brazil. Between January and August 2019, fires destroyed more than 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests in Brazil, according to the local National Institute for Space Research. In addition to wildfires, the Amazonian jungle also suffers from illegal logging, resulting in a loss of forests by thousands of square kilometers annually.
According to Gazeta.ru, the most likely reason for the emergence of outbreaks is the activity of local residents who clear the forest for their farms and mining enterprises. At the same time, the country's leadership does not interfere with them.
It is worth noting that fires in the Amazon cause damage to the entire planet, as unique forests grow there that can prevent the worst effects of climate change.