Is the Junta Using India to Supply the West with Mynamar Teak?

According to EIA, India-teak imports to the EU (and the United States) have increased 15-fold since both countries sanctioned the state-owned MTE

Tue 25 Jun 24


Three years after the EU sanctioned the sale of Myanmar teak, more than €3.8 million of teak was imported into the zone last year. Despite strict sanctions, millions of euros worth of timber continue to filter into Western supply chains via India and China.

That is according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (or the EIA), which has raised the alarm about Mynamar using India as a launching pad to sell into the EU and the United States. It comes after India’s trade in teak has increased 15-fold, from €500,000 in 2021 to nearly €7.5 million in 2023—in the wake of the decision by the US (in April 2021) and then the EU (in June 2021) to sanction the state-owned Myanmar Timber Enterprise.

The EIA said it is impossible to determine if teak exported from India is Myanmar teak “given that India’s forests contain naturally grown teak,” nonetheless, the increase in exports indicates a shift in trade that coincides with the timing of implementing sanctions against MTE.

“Given the escalating violence and conflict within Myanmar, without the full implementation of sanctions and timber laws, what’s the point?” according to EIA’s Forests Campaign Leader, Faith Doherty, who said India has not implemented sanctions against MTE, with Indian traders free to continue to purchase Burmese teak directly from MTE.

The EU are in the process of introducing the world's strongest deforestation laws. As the third largest timber market in the world, behind China and the US, it will have major implications for global supply chains for forest products. (Image Credit: Getty Images)
The EU is in the process of introducing the world’s strongest deforestation laws. Under the laws, teak importers must demonstrate that import items are “deforestation-free” (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Under timber importing laws (including the soon-to-be-rolled-out EUDR), traders must verify the origin of the teak and demonstrate that it did not originate from Myanmar. “So, Indian traders must be transparent about where they source their timber,” the EIA said.

“The international market must remain vigilant as we continue to see a direct flow of teak from Myanmar. The international community must do more to stop this trade,” Ms Doherty said, adding that “the demand for this ‘blood timber’ remains high, especially for the elites refurbishing and buying yachts. These illegal actions are supporting an illegitimate regime and one of the most violent conflicts on Earth.”

Italy is EU’s Smuggling Hotspot for Myanmar Teak

Last month, Wood Central reported that Italy is Europe’s ground zero for teak and other forest products. Between January and October 2023, Italian companies imported more Myanmar wood products than any other European country — at least US $3.3 million worth — used in furniture and construction, according to Italian government data analysed by the FederlegnoArredo – Italy’s national timber trade association.

The Indian Express has reported that prized teak is entering global markets via India. Footage courtesy of @indianexpress.

According to Deforestation Inc., an investigation led by ICIJ, the EU and the US have failed to stop the trade in Myanmar timber, allowing the junta to keep its tight grip over the country. FederlegnoArredo’s data found that European companies imported more than US $6 million worth of wood products from Myanmar. Yadanar Maung, a Justice for Myanmar spokesperson, said that “far more needs to be done.”

“It’s unacceptable that Myanmar teak imports to the US and EU are happening at all” three years after the coup, Mr Maung told ICIJ, adding that “the sale of teak helps the junta pay for the bombs and jet fuel it needs to slaughter Myanmar people. No yacht is worth the price of blood Myanmar people are sacrificing for this abhorrent trade,” he said.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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