CITES: End of Restrictions on African Blackwood Pipes and Chanters in Sight

Restrictions on bagpipemakers which require them to certify each shipment of African Blackwood pipes they send abroad are due to end on November 26. However, as this letter to one of the UK’s leading manufacturers makes clear it may be a while yet before they are completely free of red tape:

‘I have been seeking official answers to your query but I am yet to hear back from the relevant authorities. The reason for this is that it is looking increasingly likely that the European Union will be late in implementing the new CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] amendments which were agreed upon at the CITES Conference of the Parties in August.



‘What this will mean (and I will get back to you as soon as I hear official confirmation) is that – as they did when Dalbergia spp. were listed in 2017 – the EU will implement the changes slightly later than the other member states of the Convention.

‘If this happens again, there will be a short period of time when the EU will still require Member States to issue permits for imports and exports of musical instruments containing Dalbergia spp. (which includes African Blackwood) but you will not necessarily need to apply for permits from the other country because they will implement the changes on November 26th 2019. 

‘We always advise customers to double check with the other country’s CITES Management Authority to see if import/export permits are required.

‘If you recall, in 2017, CITES listed Dalbergia spp. [ABW] on Appendix II on 02/01/2017 but the European Union did not implement the changes until 04/02/2017. I would like to stress that this email is not to relay official government policy but rather to let you know as much as we know at present.’

Controls on ABW, dalbergia melanoxylon, and other protected wood species will remain for wood importers and exporters and the rule change is dependent on the manufacturers sourcing their blackwood from a legitimate and licensed hardwood importer. All UK bagpipe makers already comply with this requirement. 

CITES red tape was adding around £65 to the average cost of a set of pipes, though the license applied per shipment so this could be spread by packaging two or three sets or more together.

Now, provided UK manufacturers retain paperwork proving their wood came from an authorised dealer they can, from November 26 or soon after, sell their finished instruments without any ‘endangered species’ requirement or impediment.

Sets of African blackwood ready for turning into pipes will still be protected under CITES

Craig Munro, Director of one leading firm, Wallace Bagpipes, said: ‘From a manufacturer’s point of view the removal of the requirement for licences takes us back to supply on demand. Depending on where you are in the world we can now look at next day delivery or express delivery without having to wait up to six or eight weeks for the required CITES licence.

‘I haven’t heard of any specific problem with the EU but I am sure action will be taken quickly to bring us into line with the rest of the world.

‘For this reason we are looking forward to a very successful and productive 2020. Our traders are already ordering stock in anticipation of the rule change making it a very busy end to 2019.’


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