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CITES: Rosewood Trade Regulations

Here’s how regulations on the international trade of rosewood impact guitar owners

As part of our commitment to the sustainable management of wood species used in the guitar industry, we want to keep you updated on regulations that impact the sale and ownership of Taylor guitars made with protected woods.

Dalbergia Rosewood
In January of 2017, new regulations that heighten the protection of rosewood species under the genus Dalbergia took effect. The regulations, which were adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), impact the international commercial trade of Dalbergia rosewood, including products made with it, such as guitars. Dalbergia rosewood includes East Indian rosewood, Honduran rosewood, and cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa). The new regulations also apply to three species of bubinga. This will impact anyone looking to buy or sell a rosewood guitar across international borders, and could also impact someone who intends to ship a rosewood guitar internationally for service. Keep in mind that Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) is protected by even stricter CITES regulations. Below we’ve compiled some information to explain what these regulations mean for anyone looking to buy, sell, ship or travel internationally with a guitar featuring Dalbergia rosewood.

Trade Regulations for Rosewood Species

Understanding how international rosewood trade regulations impact the guitar world

What happened with rosewood?

In October of 2016, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) voted to enact regulations that heighten the worldwide protection of rosewood species under the genus Dalbergia. This impacts guitars and other products made with Dalbergia rosewood, which includes East Indian rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia), Honduran rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii), and cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa). The new regulations also apply to three species of bubinga. All Dalbergia rosewood species other than Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) will be regulated under CITES, Appendix II. (Brazilian rosewood is protected by even stricter CITES regulations under Appendix I.) The new rosewood regulations officially took effect January 2, 2017.

What exactly is CITES?

It’s an international agreement between governments that was established in 1975 to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild. A total of 183 countries have signed the CITES treaty (including the U.S.), and are referred to as “Parties” to CITES. Every three years, those countries hold voting meetings, called conventions, to discuss and make changes to the lists of species and the regulations that are designed to protect them. The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. You can learn more about CITES at www.cites.org.

Why did rosewood garner the attention of the CITES Parties?

International law enforcement officials found certain types of rosewood to be a major target of illegal activity — accounting for up to 35 percent of the value of worldwide seizures of illegally trafficked wild animals and plants. This activity was centered in Southeast Asia and involved different types of rosewood that were illegally sourced to supply the Asian furniture market. By contrast, Taylor Guitars and the vast majority of the guitar industry source Indian rosewood from India, where it has been legally and sustainably managed for years. But the CITES listing was written to cover the entire Dalbergia genus, so it applies to all Dalbergia rosewood species. Nonetheless, Taylor Guitars supports better protection for the diversity and health of rosewood.

How do these rosewood regulations impact the sale of rosewood guitars?

Effective January 2, 2017, CITES import or export permits are required for commercial trade across international borders of Dalbergia in all its forms. This includes raw materials, parts, and guitars with any Dalbergia part on it. So this means not only a guitar with rosewood back and sides, but one that contains even small Dalbergia rosewood components (such as binding, a peghead overlay, pickguard, or other rosewood trim). Import/export permits are needed for anyone who buys or sells internationally, whether a wood supplier, manufacturer, dealer, distributor, or individual. To be clear, the CITES Management Authority in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has stated that this regulation is neither a ban nor boycott of domestic trade in Dalbergia products.

What does this mean for owners of rosewood guitars?

For the vast majority of individual owners of guitars made with Dalbergia rosewood, the new CITES regulations won’t impact you. But if you were to buy or sell a guitar with Dalbergia rosewood internationally, the guitar would need proper CITES documentation for it to be sold legally. An example would be if you live in the U.S. and want to sell your rosewood Taylor 814ce to someone living in Canada. Before you could ship the guitar, you would need to apply for a re-export certificate from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pay an application fee, wait to receive the certificate, and then include it with the guitar when you ship it. Also, at this time the guitar must be shipped through one of the “Designated Ports” with all pages of the permit so the shipment and permit can be inspected and validated/endorsed by properly credentialed Management Authority officials. Keep in mind that even if the guitar was produced before the regulations took effect (January 2, 2017), you still need a permit that identifies the guitar as “pre-Convention.” It’s recommended that prior to any international transaction you contact the CITES authorities in the destination country to confirm CITES import regulations, as they can differ country by country. Keep in mind that it could take a couple of months to receive the certificate, so given the time, expense and logistics, it will be easier to sell the guitar domestically.

Are permits required for domestic sales?

No. Once a shipment of rosewood or a guitar arrives legally at its destination country with proper CITES documentation, it can be sold and transferred within domestic borders without requiring additional permits. So if you live in Canada or Europe and go into a music store, the store can sell you a rosewood guitar without needing a permit. As an owner, you would only need a permit if you later wanted to sell the guitar to someone outside your country.

What do I need to know about traveling with a rosewood guitar?

You can do so without needing a permit of any kind (this excludes Brazilian rosewood, which is subject to more stringent CITES restrictions). The CITES regulations are not meant to be overly restrictive to individual owners of rosewood products, particularly if they are not selling them internationally. For international travel, a 10kg (about 22-pound) weight exemption policy was established for people who wish to travel internationally with rosewood products such as guitars. Also, the 10kg weight limit refers only to the rosewood portions of a product. At Taylor, we have calculated the typical weights of rosewood on any Taylor guitar and shared these measurements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are as follows:

Solid wood guitars: 0.85 kg
Layered wood guitars: 0.21 kg

As you can see, any rosewood guitar falls well below the 10kg limit. This means you can travel internationally with your rosewood Taylor guitar, or ship it across country lines, without needing a permit.

What if I want to ship my guitar to an authorized Taylor service center in another country? Do I need a permit?

In general, some countries don’t require permits for warranty and repair shipments, and some do. If you feel you might need to ship a guitar containing Dalbergia rosewood across international borders for repair, whether to Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, Amsterdam, or to another authorized repair shop outside your country, be sure to call Taylor’s Customer Service department beforehand. For your convenience, our representatives will identify authorized work that can be done within your country and offer recommendations on how to proceed based on your situation. If you fail to contact Taylor prior to shipping your guitar from your country, or if you fail to get any necessary permit for your guitar, the guitar could be subject to government confiscation and/or Taylor might not be able to obtain a permit to ship it back to you in your country.

Which Taylor models contain rosewood?

Within Taylor’s standard guitar line, our 700, 800, 800 Deluxe and 900 Series models feature solid Indian rosewood back and sides, while 400 Series models with an “R” in the model name (e.g., 414ce-R) also feature rosewood back and sides. Additionally, some Taylor 200 Deluxe Series models feature layered rosewood back and sides. If you want to find the build specifications for a current model, enter the model name (located on the label inside the guitar) in the search field here on the website. If you don’t see your guitar model listed or aren’t sure about a guitar’s specs, please contact Taylor’s Customer Service department, and be sure to have the guitar’s serial number.

Where does Taylor source its rosewood?

Our Indian rosewood is sourced legally and sustainably from our rosewood supplier, Gemwood, whose mill is based in the city of Cochin, a major port city on the southwestern coast of India in the state of Kerala. Gemwood is a family-run enterprise, and we’ve been working with them since the late 1970s. www.gemwood.com

What is the difference between the regulations for Brazilian rosewood vs. other Dalbergia rosewoods?

Within the CITES framework, Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) is more protected, and its trade is more restricted, than other rosewoods. CITES-protected species can be listed in three different CITES Appendices (I, II or III) according to how threatened they are by international trade. Brazilian rosewood is listed on Appendix I (the most protected level), which means it’s banned from international shipments of any form unless it was legally removed from the forest before the ban took effect in 1992 (referred to as “Pre-Convention”) and then only with a permit. Other rosewood species in the Dalbergia genus were listed on Appendix II as of January 2, 2017. Those restrictions are not as stringent.

Who issues the CITES permits required for commercial trade?

When a species is regulated by CITES, each Party (country) designates a Management Authority to administer and enforce the CITES requirements. In the U.S., CITES is administered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Management Authority is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). You can find a list of Management Authorities for each country here.

I own a Taylor guitar that contains rosewood. Can Taylor provide any official documentation regarding when it was built?

Yes. If you feel you need verification from Taylor regarding the materials and build date of your guitar,  call or email our Customer Service team and provide a brief explanation of your circumstances. Be sure to include the model number and serial number of your guitar. Remember, documentation is only necessary when selling the guitar across international borders. It is not necessary for travel.

Additional Information

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services
The United States Fish & Wildlife Service can assist you with any needed permits should you wish to sell your guitar internationally. You should contact them to apply for the permit before you ship it. You can find the applications and other information here. Look for permit application Export, Plants 3-200-32, under the heading Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

You may also refer to the “How to Obtain a Permit” page for additional instructions and answers.

Additional CITES Information

Musical Instrument Fact Sheet

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Permit Application Form
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League of American Orchestras
CITES Protected Species Travel Tips