Overseas pipers sending broken blackwood joints back to manufacturers in the UK for repair will not have to comply with the new legislation covering the import and export of African blackwood products.
A spokesman for the UK’s regulator, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), said the European Union had issued a directive confirming the above. Other countries around the world seem to have adopted a similar stance though he said pipers overseas should check locally.
‘It makes sense that wood which has already been through the licensing procedure is exempted from further examination,’ he added.
The spokesman also reported that bagpipe manufacturers in the UK were having their licensing of shipments readily agreed and that they had reported no glitches in the system. Most new wood was coming directly into the UK from outwith Europe was coming from Indonesia and India and these countries had systems in place to handle the paperwork surrounding protected species.
It costs bagpipemakers £59 for an export licence from APHA in Bristol. For further information here are a couple of links
Alasdair Dunn, Managing Director of RG Hardie said: ‘We have been receiving permits and exporting blackwood bagpipes without any issue. They have arrived safely in North America and Australia for example.
‘It is important we communicate a positive message regarding the availability of blackwood products and also for people travelling with instruments. Serial numbers are not required, however we do engrave our pipes with the year of manufacture and in the case of Hendersons, a serial number on the bass stock.’
Background information on the mpingo African Blackwood tree: ‘The African blackwood, also known as the mpingo tree (botanical name dalbergia melanoxylon) is regarded as one of the most precious timbers in the world. Ranging from reddish to pure black, its lustrous heartwood has mechanical properties that make it ideal for making carvings.
‘It is naturally oily, finely grained and has a unique density. Its tonal qualities are particularly valued when used in woodwind instruments mainly clarinets, oboes, bagpipes and piccolos. The African blackwood being highly durable protects the instrument from the acidity of saliva and oily hands. In addition it is environmentally stable and does not distort when exposed to increased humidity thus significantly prevents the tone and pitch of a musical instrument from altering.
‘With all these qualities it is no wonder that African blackwood manufactures some of the world’s best woodwind instruments. In fact it is believed to be the most expensive hardwood in the world costing up to $25,000 per cubic metre.
‘Mpingo also has many traditional uses; different parts of the tree are used in medicine. The bark, leaves and pods can all be used as animal feed; the heart and sapwood can be burnt as fuel or made in to charcoal. The wood when boiled produces a broth believed to impart strength when used to bathe newborn babies.
‘Mpingo generally grows under a wide range of environmental conditions and is able to survive fires that destroy grasslands and other vegetation. It is indigenous to 26 African countries from northern Ethiopia to the south in Angola and from Senegal across to Tanzania and Mozambique. It is frequently found on dry, rocky sites from sea level to 1,200 metres. It survives on very little water; in fact once its root system is set up, the tree requires little or no rainfall to mature.’
• Read more on the CITES blackwood regulations here.