Tag Archives: CITES

How CITES is changing the future of rosewood in guitars



It’s interesting trying to keep up with how guitar companies and the tonewood market are dealing with the new CITES restrictions on rosewood.

It’s pretty clear that most guitar companies have been caught sleeping on the job when it comes to tonewood supply.

Here’s a recent article that puts a spotlight on the difficult times ahead for the industry.

It’s a long read but worth the effort. Here are some of the more relevant sections from a tonewood growers viewpoint:

The specific timing and impact of the latest restrictions on commercial rosewood usage is indeed a headache for the guitar industry, but it comes amid a much longer contextual setting of ecological concern and environmental politics. Which is to say that you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out what’s coming next. We’re discussing rosewood here, but ebony and mahogany are glowing bright on the radar for more stringent protection.


Despite the best efforts of Martin, Taylor and Gibson in pushing the likes of Richlite and HPL for more than two decades now, many guitar enthusiasts – particularly fans of premium instruments – remain uninterested in anything but traditional timbers.


Sustainable wood species such as maple, sycamore, cherry and so on may provide some form of halfway house, but it still leaves the big guitar brands labouring with a stark contradiction. By their own admission, they’ve been telling us for decades that the ‘best’ guitars use the ‘best’ rosewood, mahogany and ebony. Their survival as businesses, however, requires much more widespread use of more sustainable materials.

“By their own admission…” indeed. And it still continues. Efforts by most guitar companies to “shift the market” have been pretty mild to say the least.

And we hear that most mahoganies and ebony are next on the list.

New Zealand blackwood growers are looking at a significant opportunity here.

With their plantation resource now maturing just as the global tonewood supply is coming under pressure, it’s the perfect time to be a blackwood grower.

New Zealand blackwood growers need to start making connections into the tonewood market, promoting New Zealand plantation-grown blackwood as a profitable, sustainable quality tonewood.

The opportunity is right now!

As for Tasmania, well we seem to have missed the boat.

No guitar company is coming to Tasmania to buy blackwood or other tonewoods plundered from our conservation reserves at taxpayers expense.


The next 5-10 years will see the global tonewood market completely transformed. Who will be the beneficiaries of this change?

One of the major challenges is that the tonewood market does not know how to engage with the farming community to support and encourage them to grow tonewoods. Getting farmers to make a 30+ year investment planting trees takes a lot of support and encouragement.


Music Industry Advisory on New Rosewood Trade Regulations


For Australian readers here is a current list of new regulations around the import, export and personal travel with items containing rosewood timber due to the recent CITES changes:


Please note CITES documentation is generally not required for imports and exports of personal items of up to 10 kg per shipment containing either Dalbergia or any of the three listed Guibourtia species.

Almost all acoustic guitars have at least a rosewood fretboard.


These new trade restrictions on all rosewood species, including Indian rosewood, effectively mean the end rosewood as a commercial tonewood.

Rosewood is regarded as the premium tonewood.

The idea that the music products industry is somehow the innocent bystander in this situation (because little of the rosewood cut in the world goes towards guitars) is from what I understand a bending of the truth. Being a minor party in a crime does not make one innocent.

The adage about “lying down with dogs” comes to mind.

The guitar industry is still generally a very long way from sourcing sustainable timber and being supportive and transparent about it.

And as for customers/buyers who turn a blind eye to the continuing problem.

So what will the market do now?

My guess is they will turn to other rainforest timbers. If they can’t get rosewood at least they can still get cheap timber. The plundering of the worlds rainforests won’t stop just because of the restrictions on rosewood.

Ultimately it must come down to the consumer.

If the consumer wants to help preserve what remains of the planets rainforests then guitar buyers have to start making the tough informed choices.

Global rosewood market continues to tighten


The current CITES Summit (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg South Africa has voted to further tighten global trade on all Rosewood species in another attempt to save these species from extinction.

CITES says that rosewood timber is the world’s most illegally trafficked product accounting for 30% of all seizures by value.

The Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) summit on Thursday placed all 300 species of rosewood under international trade restrictions.

Here’s a report from The Guardian:


Rosewood is one of the world’s premium tonewood timbers, and whilst the tonewood market accounts for only a small percentage of demand nevertheless it is a significant driver in the rosewood marketplace.

Sooner or later the tonewood market is going to have to face the reality of rosewoods bleak future.