Regulations on shisham trade hit rosewood artisans

The reason for the dip, claims India, is the decision to include the entire Dalbergia genus under Appendix II of CITES

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 10 July 2019

More than 50,000 rosewood artisans in India have been badly hit by trade regulations introduced in 2017 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites.

India’s international trade in shisham (Dalbergia sissoo), a type of rosewood, was Rs 617 crore, against the potential of Rs 1,000 crore, showed Data collected from 2017 to 2018 by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts.

The reason for the dip, claims India, is the decision to include the entire Dalbergia genus under Appendix II of Cites, which has species where trade must be controlled to avoid overexploitation.

The decision was taken at the last Cites conference of parties (CoP 17) after several African and Latin American countries said illegal international trade in rosewood, fuelled primarily due to rising Chinese demand, was decimating rosewood populations throughout its range. The countries added that because all types of rosewood look alike, the entire genus should be included to curb illegal trade.

India has sent a proposal to Cites ahead of the upcoming CoP 18 that trade of individual species should be regulated, and not the entire genus, based on their conservation status.

India has two species of Dalbergia, of which D latifolia (Indian rosewood) is classified 'vulnerable', while shisham is widely grown by farmers. India wants to deregulate the trade of shisham.

‘Shisham provides livelihood to many in India’

Saket Badola, head of non-profit TRAFFIC India, believes India should try and remove rosewood from CITES’ Appendix II

Photo courtesy:

How important is the next CITES meet for India?

It is very important as the livelihood of many in the country depends on rosewood. Even though shisham (D sissoo) is not threatened in India, CITES has put the entire Dalbergia genus in Appendix II. Shisham is widely grown by Indian farmers and used by artisans. Now, its export will require CITES-comparable documents.

Can India ensure seamless export of shisham products without amending CITES Appendix II?

Though getting out of Appendix II is the best option, technically there are two other ways. One is that India conducts a non-detrimental study to show that the species is not endangered in the country and then gets a fixed quota of rosewood items to be exported. But exporters will still need to get certificates.

The other way is that India withdraws its reservation and asks for an annotation that will allow its exporters to deal in shisham items of a certain pre-decided weight. However, getting the other countries to agree on a commonly accepted weight might pose a challenge.

(This article was first published in Down To Earth's print edition dated June 16-30, 2019)

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.