Wildlife & Biodiversity

COP19: CITES relaxes restrictions on export of Indian shisham products

The export restrictions imposed in 2017 dealt a long-term blow to the country’s furniture & handicrafts industry

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Thursday 24 November 2022
COP19: CITES relaxes restrictions on export of shisham products from India Photo: Pixahive / Creative Commons

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) relaxed restrictions on the export of furniture and handicrafts made of North Indian rosewood or shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) from India November 21, 2022. 

The restrictions on export of all shisham products were imposed when CITES added the species to Appendix II of the Convention in 2017. This dealt a long-term blow to the country’s furniture and handicrafts industry. 

CITES describes Appendix II as the category that “includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”.


At present, every consignment of handicrafts and furniture weighing above 10 kilograms requires a CITES permit. 

Due to this restriction, exports of furniture and handicrafts made of shisham from India fell to Rs 500-600 crore per year after the listing, from an estimated Rs 1,000 crore per annum before the listing. 

The decrease in exports of shisham products has affected the livelihoods of around 50,000 artisans, said the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

India has two species of Dalbergia, of which D. latifolia (Indian rosewood) is classified vulnerable’, while D. sissoo or North Indian rosewood is widely grown. The second is the species India wanted removed from the CITES Appendix II. 

India had raised the request for the deletion of Shisham from CITES Appendix II at the 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) to CITES being held in Panama from November 14. The country’s representatives cited the abundance of the species and the negative impact of the restrictions on rural livelihood as the reason for the relaxation.

But it was opposed by 55 nations, including countries of the European Union, Canada and Argentina. While the proposal by India was not accepted, some relaxations were made in this regard to accommodate the needs of artisans.

Considering India’s proposal, the parties and the CITES Secretariat agreed to allow Indian artisans to ship any number of items made of North Indian rosewood, each weighing under 10 kg, without the CITES permit in a single consignment. 

It was also agreed upon that only the net weight of timber in the handicraft or furniture will be considered, and all other items like metal, glass or resin will be ignored.  

“In India, the species Dalbergia sissoo (North Indian rosewood or shisham) is found in abundance and not treated as an endangered species. During the discussion, it was duly acknowledged by the parties that Dalbergia sissoo was not at all a threatened species,” said MoEFCC’s official statement November 21. 

The delisting of the species from Appendix II on India’s behest could not happen due to a lack of technology for distinguishing different species of Dalbergia in the finished goods. The countries added that there was a need to develop new and advanced technological tools that can solve this problem at the customs point by differentiating the species of the genus. 

Earlier, India had sent a proposal for delisting the species to CITES ahead of COP18 held in Sri Lanka. The country had demanded that trade of individual species should be regulated, and not the entire genus, based on their conservation status. 

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