Brazil Tags Trees Electronically

On Tuesday, Brazil launched a new system to track timber from the stump to it’s point of sale. The National System for Controlling the Origin of Forest Products (Sinaflor) involves electronically tagging individual trees and monitoring them as they are felled, skidded and transported to sawmills.

This new system is intended to make logging permits readily accessible and verifiable via cell phones and satellite mapping. It was piloted in the northern state of Roraima, and is now being introduced in Rondonia. It’s expected to be functional country-wide by the end of the year.

If it performs as intended, this could be a big step in addressing the true nature of the problem of illegal logging. Despite dramatic displays of foreign authorities destroying illegal lumber after it has passed through several points in the supply chain, even crossing international borders, the real problem, the illegality, often occurs in the forest at the point of harvest.

Although it’s unclear on how Sinaflor will prevent illegal lumber from entering the supply chain at the point of milling, this initiative marks a positive step towards solutions that reduce illegal logging without transferring the costs of forest governance to private enterprise.

This is good for business. It helps the bottom line of legitimate Brazilian timberland owners and forest product companies by preventing them from being undercut in the market by below-cost illegal timber. And, if Sinaflor is as robust as the Brazilian authorities claim, it will also help downstream wood product importers in the U.S. and Europe, by removing some of the due diligence burden and expensive transaction costs imposed by the Lacey Act and EUTR laws.

What’s good for legitimate forest businesses is good for forests. If Sinaflor results in greater efficiencies within forest product supply chains, then it will create real economic momentum for forest conservation in Brazil – a healthy, profitable forest sector is necessary to sustain the economic value of forests and fund their governance.

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