Lehigh Valley

International rosewood rules cause Martin Guitar to lose sales

UPPER NAZARETH TWP., Pa. - People at Martin Guitar talk about rosewood with reverence.

"Rosewood just offers a wide spectrum of sound. There's nothing like rosewood," said Mark Smith, Exotic Wood Specialist for Martin.

Every year, thousands and thousands of guitars come out of Martin made with rosewood.

But, there's a problem.

According to the company, environmental rules meant to conserve rosewood had unintended consequences. 

"It didn't help with conservation and it has become an administrative nightmare," said Frank Untermyer, Martin's Director of Supply Chain. 

He told WFMZ that high demand for rosewood furniture in China led to massive illegal logging.

To combat it, the wood was added to an international treaty meant to protect endangered plants and animals.

"Rather than targeting the illegally harvested rosewood, all rosewood was listed," he explained. 

Which buried the company in paperwork. 

"We had to get permits for every single export shipment that we made, even if just one guitar had any rosewood in it at all," he said.

Unbelievably, the process isn't done electronically.

"It's with paper permits that are stamped and signed, and that are being sent all over the world," he said.

Today, he and three other people spend about half their time dealing with the rules.

"It's resulted in massive delays of shipments," he said, which in return means significant sales lost. 

Untermyer stressed that Martin agrees with the goal of the treaty, and he also said the regulators realize the mistake they made.

Unfortunately, they aren't meeting again until May 2019.

"So we won't see relief until that date," he said. 

Until then, they'll have to live with the rules. 

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