HomeNewsIpê Trees - The Most Expensive Timber in Brazil's Amazon

Ipê Trees - The Most Expensive Timber in Brazil's Amazon


Resilient, rare, and incredibly lucrative on international markets, ipê trees are the unlucky bellwethers of illegal logging trends in the Brazilian Amazon. Wherever they can be found, mass deforestation eventually follows.

Selling for as much as $2,775 per cubic meter on global markets, ipê trees are the most valuable hardwood illegally extracted from Brazil's forests, according to a recent investigation by environmental news outlet Mongabay.

The report, published July 18, reveals how illegal deforestation mostly takes place in areas known as hotspots for harvesting ipê.

Though loggers extract a variety of timber species in the Brazilian Amazon, ipê trees are in a class of their own. Ipê is sold at a far higher price than other types of wood, according to a 2021 report by the International Tropical Timber Organization.

Ipê sawn wood sold at $876 per cubic meter domestically and for $1,752 per cubic meter at export prices, according to the report. The second most expensive wood, jatoba, sold at $431 in Brazil and for $997 abroad, highlighting the potential profits from harvesting ipê.

SEE ALSO: GameChangers 2021: How Organized Crime Devoured the Amazon Rainforest

Used in flooring and decking, seven species of ipê trees grow in the Brazilian Amazon. The wood has become a prime target for illegal loggers because of its resistance to fungus, insects, and fire, on top of its sturdiness. The high demand is driving ipê trees closer to extinction with each year.

Ipê trees tend to grow surrounded by other types of timber. This leads to selective logging, with illegal loggers felling other valuable nearby trees without fully razing the area. The trick allows loggers "to fool the satellite" and evade detection, Luciano Evaristo, the former director of Brazil's environmental protection agency (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis - Ibama), told Human Rights Watch in 2019.

InSight Crime Analysis

The situation is dire for ipê trees, with traffickers going to great lengths to harvest the wood, hide it, and ultimately sell it for profit.

Europe, the United States and Canada are historically the largest markets for ipê trees. At least 525 million kilograms of ipê wood was exported from Brazil between 2017 and 2021, largely to those three markets. Yet increased international pressure to stamp out illegal and unsustainable logging has slashed demand in recent years.

As a result, Brazil's domestic market has swelled, increasing "by 15 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for civil construction in the south and southeast," according to Mongabay.

SEE ALSO: Felled and Burned: Deforestation in Peru's Amazon

With limited protection, ipê trees risk being wiped out. They are a rare species that requires 80 to 100 years to achieve maturity and grows in extremely low densities.

One hectare of forest yields just 0.5 cubic meters of ipê wood, or around seven cubic feet per acre, according to Mongabay. This means loggers bulldoze broad swaths of forest in search of just a few trees.

The trees are so profitable that the term "ipê mafias" was coined to label illegal loggers harvesting a range of timber species in the Brazilian Amazon.

Like in other parts of Latin America, the ipê mafias rely on fraudulent documents that exaggerate the amount of trees located in area where logging is permitted. In some cases, this allows these groups to illegally extract ipê from protected areas while providing legitimate papers for export.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 2 DEC 2022

Illegal gold mining in the remote Ecuadorian province of Napo has grown at a staggering rate. Environmental crime has grown…

BRAZIL / 29 SEP 2022

Brazil is facing a presidential election that could genuinely reshape its criminal landscape. How do Bolsonaro and Lula compare?…

COLOMBIA / 28 JUL 2021

Mexico's largest criminal groups are outsourcing the retrieval of cocaine shipments to smaller groups posing as fishing cooperatives, providing another…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Coverage Continues to be Highlighted

3 MAR 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-director Jeremy McDermott was the featured guest on the Americas Quarterly podcast, where he provided an expert overview of the changing dynamics…


Venezuela's Organized Crime Top 10 Attracts Attention

24 FEB 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published its ranking of Venezuela’s ten organized crime groups to accompany the launch of the Venezuela Organized Crime Observatory. Read…


InSight Crime on El País Podcast

10 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-founder, Jeremy McDermott, was among experts featured in an El País podcast on the progress of Colombia’s nascent peace process.


InSight Crime Interviewed by Associated Press

3 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s Co-director Jeremy McDermott was interviewed by the Associated Press on developments in Haiti as the country continues its prolonged collapse. McDermott’s words were republished around the world,…


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…