Forests the size of a football field were illegally cleared every two minutes between 2000 and 2012 to supply European consumers with beef, soy beans, leather and palm oil, a campaign group said recently.
The European Union (EU) imports 25 per cent of all soy produced on illegally cleared tropical forest land, 31 per cent of the leather and 18 per cent of the palm oil, according to a report by the Brussels-based group Fern.
In 2012, the EU imported about 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion) worth of soy, beef, palm oil and other goods produced on illegally cleared land - almost a quarter of the total world trade, the report said.
Paraguay, Malaysia and several other countries were sources of commodities produced through illegal logging but Brazil and Indonesia accounted for the bulk of it, the report said.
Up to 90 per cent of the deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon and 80 per cent in Indonesia is thought to be illegal, Fern said.
“It is well documented that the EU has been leading the world in imports of products which drive deforestation, but this is the first time that we have data showing that much of this deforestation is also illegal,” said Saskia Ozinga, a Fern campaigner said in a statement.
Financed partially by Britain’s Department for International Development, the report said the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France and Britain are the largest European importers of illegally sourced agricultural commodities.
“The illegal nature of the deforestation means it is also driving corruption, and leading to lost revenues, violence and human rights abuses,” Sam Lawson, the report’s author said in a statement.
Most of the leather produced through illegal deforestation enters the EU through Italy, the report said.
Fern called on the 28-member EU to use its purchasing power and the size of its market to push for reforms in supply countries to reduce illegal logging.