Plant Trade (PLANT)

          CASE NUMBER:          97 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      PLANT
          CASE NAME:          Plant Trade

1.        The Issue
     It is not known exactly how many plant species are traded in
the world.  However, many are disappearing at a startling rate.  An
estimated 1 in 10 recorded species is now considered either rare or
endangered.  The most serious pressures come from industrial
development, air and water pollution, farming and livestock
grazing, and land clearing for timber production and firewood. 
The market for exotic plants adds to the peril of species that are
rare and difficult to cultivate.  Due to the illegal trading of
these plants, there are no exact records to estimate global demand. 
However, there are some statistics regarding legal trade between
the U.S. and other countries.  The United States alone imports more
than 300 million garden and house plants in 1989, up from about 180
million plants in 1984 and fewer than 10 million plants in 1970.
2.        Description
     To guard against the continuous loss of other plant life,
CITES placed many plants on their list of protected species.  In
addition, new laws have been created by different states and/or
countries.  In the United States, for example, the Endangered
Species Act implements CITES, prohibits collecting plants on
federal lands, and requires a permit for interstate trade in
propagated specimens of listed species; the Lacey Act prohibits
international or interstate commerce in native wild plants taken in
violation of state or federal endangered species law.  In
addition, there are many state and local laws protecting native
     In the past few years, agricultural officials, nursery owners,
botanical societies, conservation groups and plant enthusiasts have
become very active to ensure that most plants in commercial trade
come from non-threatened or artificially propagated stock.  For
example, they have increased cultivation efforts, implemented
somewhat stronger international and domestic controls on the rare
plant market, encouraged self-policing within the trade, and
educated consumers about the reasons to avoid purchasing rare
species collected in the wild.  As a result, less than 1 percent of
the world cactus trade, a thriving multi-million dollar plant
business annually, involves specimens taken from the wild.  As
another example, most of U.S. horticultural dealers who sell rare
plants, especially succulents, such as some Pachypodium species of
South Africa and Madagascar, reportedly now propagate their wares.
     Most cacti enthusiasts deplore colleagues who pick up and dig
plants from the wild.  Propagated or nursery-raised cacti are more
popular in the mass market, too, because they tend to be healthier
-- free of bug bites, sunburn, and other imperfections.  Of the 10
million or so cactus plants in world trade every year, more than 99
percent are propagated, often by large-scale nursery operations in
the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil and the western United States.  In
the United States alone, cactus growers may produce as many as 50
million plants annually for domestic and foreign markets.  
     The domestic nursery grown operations do not halt illegal
trade.  It is widely known that to ship Cacti and other  exotic
plants, traders usually mislabel crates as propagated specimens. 
In addition, officials are often bribed, avoid checkpoints, and
launder plants from one country to another with false paperwork. 
Dealers will go to any extent in order to successfully complete
their shipments.  For example, in Japan an unscrupulous importer
allegedly wrapped a shipment of cacti alongside particularly thorny
propagated plants, effectively discouraging port authorities from
inspecting the shipment by hand.  Enforcement agents also have a
difficult time catching "cactus rustlers", because species are
often difficult to identify and agents lack the necessary
references to recognize violations.  Additionally, plant laws are
sometimes complicated of little known, and the volume of trade
greatly outnumbers port inspectors.
     Other Rare Plants in Trade:  Cacti are the best-known family
of succulent plants (that is, plants that store water in their
leaves, stems, and roots).  However, several other succulent are
threatened by international trade and are listed on CITES
appendices, including the euphorbias (Euphorbia spp.), of southern
Africa and Madagascar.  Often less well studied than their cactus
relatives, these plant groups are likely to be a major focus of
conservation attention in the coming years.  Some evidence
indicates that several groups featured in the specialty trade,
particularly the ghost men and euphorbias, are becoming more
popular than cacti.  While most of these plants are reported as
being artificially propagated, there is ample evidence and reason
to believe that they most come from the wild.     France is the
main entry point for Madagascar succulents destined for European
markets.  South Africa also has been a major source for
wild-collected succulents destined for European, U.S., and Japanese
markets.  Most of these plants are not listed on CITES appendices,
but some are rare and may deserve listing in the future.   Since
the imposed U.S. sanctions on South Africa, trade in the U.S. has
diminished, but not been halted completely.  Also, U.S. overzealous
collectors have snapped up some of the rarest wild succulents.  The
endangered spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla), popular in some
collecting circles, is reportedly down to only 2,500 to 3,500
plants in a few South African sites.  Nearly one third of these
sites were ravaged recently by collectors.  Once believed extinct,
more than 450 of the newly rediscovered Euphorbia turbiniformis of
eastern Africa also have been created off to the United States. 
Similarly, by 1981, E. abdelkuri had declined to only four known
wild plants, thanks too commercial "plant-nappers."  Fortunately,
the species is widely propagated by commercial growers in the
United States and other countries.
     Orchids play one of the largest roles in the plant trade. 
They are widely known and there are plenty of these plants to go
around.  In 1985, international commerce in wild and artificially
propagated members of this diverse and delicate family surpassed 3
million plants.  At least one half million of these plants came
from the wild, rather than cultivated stock.  The United States
accounted for some 690,000 orchid imports, roughly half of which
were wild plants.  Although the Netherlands supplies almost one
quarter of the U.S. market, Thailand, India, Japan, Brazil,
Guatemala, and Honduras are also important suppliers.
     Prices vary according to the origin of the orchid.  Orchids
from Borneo can go as much as $1,000 in the U.S. market.  Perhaps
the most expensive wild orchid is P. sanderinum of Malaysia a
lady■s slipper orchid that sells for $1,500.  Top prices go for the
rarest of orchids.  The most exotic plants have encouraged corrupt
collectors to remove endangered species from the wild.  One rare
Chinese orchid, found only on a single knoll in Yunnan Province, P.
armeniacum, was first discovered in 1982 but could be purchased
from nursery owners in California, the United Kingdom, Japan, and
Taiwan by 1983.  The plant is no longer sold in the United Kingdom
but as recently as the mid-1980's was offered for sale in the
United States.  
     Plant conservationists are concerned today more that ever
about the continuous and vast trade of specimens and rare orchids. 
Although all orchids have been given protection and are listed
under CITES, the trade control problem remains the same as with
other rare plants.  These trade controls have proven difficult to
enforce and trade officials traditionally have given them little,
if any, attention.  Enforcement is especially problematic because
orchids are rarely traded while in flower, essentially the only
time when differing species can be identified.  CITES allows free
trade of any specie that has been artificially propagated. 
However, distinguishing a wild orchid from an artificial one is
almost impossible.  Moreover, traders and smugglers have developed
different techniques to falsify documents and sell illegal orchids
in legal markets.    TRAFFIC (U.S.A) estimated that some 10,000
wild orchids were smuggled out of the United States this way in
1991.  Wild orchids reportedly are also smuggled out of India and
other countries in this manner.
     Table 97-1 shows U.S. cacti trade trends over the 1980-87
period.  Imports have roughly doubled over the period while exports
have never been significant.  Re-exports, however, have dropped
from 33,087 to only 44.
                           Table 97-1
  U.S. Imports, Exports, and Reexports of Wild Cacti, 1980-1987
Year      Rexports       Imports        Exports
1980      33,087         588,669        0
1981      17,531         204,730        6
1982      15,063         198,802        16
1983      18,600         839,099        0
1984      10,643         874,780        0
1985      2,681          1,022,545      2,605
1986      68             932,214        230
1987      44             1,033,148      318
3.        Related Cases
     Keyword Clusters
     (1): Trade Product            =    PET
     (2): Bio-geography            =    DRY
     (3): Environmental Problem    =    Species Loss Land [SPLL]
4.        Draft Author:  Ben Singer
B.        LEGAL Cluster
5.        Discourse and Status: AGReement and COMPlete
     The United States, which has some of the stricter laws,
protects these and other species through the Endangered Species
Act.  In addition, various state laws play a big role.  Mexico has
a law that prohibits all plant exportation without a collection
and/or a propagation permit that is only granted to exporters who
have appropriate propagation facilities.  Major exporters and
importers are: United States, Thailand, Netherlands, Taiwan,
Denmark, China, Japan, Mexico and the rest of Latin America.  
6.        Forum and Scope: CITES and MULTIlateral
7.        Decision Breadth: 99
     With its 99 member countries, the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is the
most widely accepted wildlife conservation agreement in the world. 
Most major wildlife-consuming nations belong.  Most large-scale
wildlife-exporting countries are also members, with a few
noteworthy exceptions.  Once a nation has become a member of CITES
there are obligations to be fulfilled.  A member country must set
up management and scientific authorities to regulate trade and
submit reports on trade (yearly) and to also attend international
conferences to review implementation of the convention as well as
amend its appendices as necessary.  Most importantly, parties are
obliged to confiscate all smuggled goods or send them back to the
country of origin and to penalize violators.  It must be noted that
a key issue to CITES is that each member country decides the
specifics of how to meet such obligations.  CITES is only enforced
by its individual member authorities.  
     On an international scale, CITES is the only convention to
oversee wildlife trade and endangered species.  Other treaties
protect specific groups of animals, and numerous national laws
other than CITES-implementing legislation protect wildlife and
regulate the use of their products.  (For a list of cacti protected
under CITES see Appendix A).
8.        Legal Standing: TREATY
C.        GEOGRAPHIC Cluster
9.        Geographic Locations
     a.   Geographic Domain:  Global
     b.   Geographic Site:    Global
     c.   Geographic Impact:  Global
10.       Sub-National Factors: NO
11.       Type of Habitat: GLOBAL
     Mostly dry habitats for cacti and sub-tropical for orchids.
D.        TRADE Cluster
12.       Type of measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD]
     In addition, some countries to which cacti are native plants
have attempted to protect the plants with their own laws.  In the
United States, some endangered native cacti are protected by the
U.S. Endangered Species Act and various state laws.  Another major
source of cacti, Mexico, while not a CITES party, apparently
prohibits plant exportation without a collection and propagation
permit.  This may be given only to exporters with an adequate
propagation permit, which can only be given to exporters with
adequate propagation facilities.
13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
     In the case of the illegal smuggling, regulations are supposed
to directly halt the illegal trade.  However, because the lack of
enforcement by the authorities it may be argue that  regulations do
not have an impact on the industry.   
14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
     a.   Directly Related:   YES  PLANT
     b.   Indirectly Related: NO
     c.   Not related:        NO
     d.   Related to Process: YES  Species Loss Land [SPLA]
15.       Trade Product Identification: Wildlife PLANT
16.       Economic Data
     Information on how many cacti and orchids are traded is
limited.  The economic impact is unknown because the trade is done
17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: MEDium
     The impact of trade restriction is limited.  Due to the
illegal trade and hard identification process, it is very difficult
for all countries to fully implement their respective laws and
estimate trade in value.  
18.       Industry Sector: AGRICulture
19.       Exporters and Importers: MANY and MANY
E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20.       Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Land [SPLL]
21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
     Name:          MANY
     Type:          PLANT
     Diversity:     NA
22.       Resource Impact and Effect: HIGH and PRODuct
23.       Urgency of Problem: MEDIum
24.       Substitutes: LIKE
F.        OTHER Factors
25.       Culture: YES
     Flowers have aesthetic value and area associated with a wide
variety of rituals and customs in many cultures.
26.       Trans-Border: YES
     This global problem has many trans-national implications.
27.       Human Rights: NO
28.       Relevant Literature
Ballard, personal communication by WWF in June 8, 1988.
Fitzgerald, Sarah.  "International Wildlife Trade: Whose business
     Is It?"  World Wildlife Fund, 1989.
Inskipp, Tim and Sue Wells, International Trade in Wildlife
     (London: International Institute for Environment and
     Development, 1979).
Oldfield.  "The Western Trade in Cacti and Other Succulents."
"U.S. Customs Data on Orchids," TRAFFIC (USA) 6/4 (1986): 3.
Fuller, Douglas.  "U.S. Cactus and Succulent Business Moves
     toward Propagation," TRAFFIC (USA) 6/2 (1985): 1.

                           APPENDIX A
                    Cacti Protected by CITES
Scientific Name:  Cactae
Ancistrocactus tobuschii
Ariocarpus afavoides
A. scapharostrus
A. trigonus
Astrophytum asterias
Aztekium ritteri
Backebergia militaris
Coryphantha minima
C. sneedii
Echinocereus lindsayi
E. erectodentrus
E. mariposensis
Leuchtenbergia pricipis
Mammillaria pectinifera
M. plumosa
M. solisioides
Nopalxochia macdougallii
Obregonia denegrii
Pediocactus bradyi
P. despainii
P. knowltonii
P. papyracanthus
P. paradinei
P. peeblesianus
P. sileri
P. winkleri
Pelecyphora spp.
Sclerocactus plaucus
S. mesae-verdae
S. pubispinus
S. wrightiae
Strombocactus disciformis
Turbinicarpus laui
T. lophophoroides
T. pseudomacrochele
T. pseudopectinatus
T. schmiedickeanus
T. valdezianus
Wilcoxia schmollii
English common name
Tobusch's fishhook cactus
Tamaulipas living-rock cactus
Star cactus
Aztec cactus
Teddy-bear cactus
Nellie's cory cactus
Sneed's pincushion cactus
Jabali pincushion cactus
Lindsay's cactus
Needle-spined pineapple cactus
Mariposa cactus
Agave cactus
Feather cactus
MacDougal's cactus
Artichoke cactus
Bady's pincushion cactus
Despain's cactus
Knowlton's cactus
Grama-grass cactus
Paradine's cactus
Peebles's Navajo cactus
Siler's pincusion cactus
Winklers cactus
Hatchet cactus, pine-cone cactus
Uinta Basin hookless cactus
Mesa Verde cactus
Great Basin fishhook cactus
Wright's fishhook cactus
Disk cactus
Lamb's-tail cactus

Go to Super Page