The Bow Challenge

Earlier this year we brought you up-to-speed on the UK Ivory Act 2018 legislation and the impact on our industry.  Now there is an upcoming CITES consultation relevant to violin bows, with potential consequences for MIA members.

The Brazilian government has proposed new regulations around the use of Pernambuco, also known as Brazilwood, requesting that it is given the highest level of protection.  This wood is used for the finest violin bows, and the proposals will mean restrictions on not only the movement and trade of Pernambuco as a raw material, but also on items containing it.

The proposals are based on concerns about the illegal trafficking of both the raw material and bows made from it, and the considerable shrinking of the rainforest in which the wood is grown, now at 7% of its original size.

If the proposal is adopted, the international commercial trade of bows containing Pernambuco would become so challenging as to be impossible, and this would include buying, selling and repairing.  It would also impose considerable permit requirements for musicians travelling with the finest bows, with the potential that touring for some players could become untenable.

One of the subsequent effects is likely to be a huge drop in the value of bows containing Pernambuco, in the same way that a number of post-1974 pianos with ivory keys have been affected by the UK Ivory Act 2018.

The reality is that violin bows represent a tiny proportion of the problem, and the proposed regulations are unlikely to have any positive impact on the size of Brazil’s coastal rainforest.

We are watching this situation carefully and have already counter-signed a letter to CITES from the Association of American Orchestras.  We have also established contact with the British Violin Makers Association and with an MIA member who has expressed concerns over what may lie ahead.

We would love to hear from any MIA members who have thoughts or concerns related to this matter, and anything you share with us may inform our own communications with CITES in the UK.  If you have anything to contribute to this please email Matt directly.

Here is a copy of the joint letter to CITES mentioned above:

Musical Instrument Pernambuco Statement 9 15 2022

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