What do the new CITES exemptions on rosewood mean for the guitar industry?

We asked a panel of industry luminaries to give their thoughts on the future of rosewood in guitar now that the CITES restrictions have been lifted.

Nik Huber Orca '59 fretboard inlay and radius

For the last two years, the CITES treaty has made the international transport of guitars containing rosewood both more expensive and more complicated, and has had a significant impact on the guitar industry as a result. Now, thanks to an exemption ratified last week, musical instruments will no longer be subject to these restrictions.

This is great news for the guitar industry. But what will this mean in a practical sense, and how will it affect you, the consumer? Will the restrictions lifted, will we suddenly see a return to widespread use of rosewood in lower-end instruments? And will our rosewood-sporting guitars get cheaper?

To find out, we pulled together a panel of experts from all over the guitar world to find out what they thought.

Lee Anderton Talkbox

Lee Anderton
Managing Director, Andertons Music

“While it’s certainly great news from an admin perspective, I don’t think we’ll see an immediate rush back to using rosewood on low- and medium-priced guitars. So much time and money have been invested in sorting viable alternatives to rosewood, that I doubt manufacturers will want to make another change so soon.

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“We also need to be very sensitive with regards to customers (and retailers!) who have bought guitars with a rosewood alternative on it – we mustn’t create a situation where these guitars are treated as inferior to a rosewood-loaded model.”

Nick Frank
Partner, Frank Brothers Guitar Co

“As a company that builds made-to-order custom guitars, the lift on rosewood restrictions in finished instruments will make it easier for us to offer our international customers the option to incorporate some of the beautiful and amazing sounding woods from the Dalbergia genus in their Frank Brothers guitar.

“Responsible forestry and sustainability are important issues to us and we’re happy to see that this amendment maintains strong regulations that will protect the rosewood family of woods.”

Doug Clunie
Coda Music

“Seriously, it’s great news – the CITES certification process was a complete pain. The whole process was long and complicated, requiring an export certificate from source and an import certificate here in the UK.

“Add to that the time the instruments were held at customs while everything was checked, and a three-day service from the US could stretch out to two weeks while the couriers and customs went through everything.”

fender ceo andy mooney

Andy Mooney
CEO, Fender

“We are delighted here at Fender that the COP has exempted finished musical instruments, parts and accessories containing Appendix II rosewood from CITES. We share the conservation goals of CITES, but did not believe the volume of rosewood used in the creation of musical instruments warranted being part of the permitting process and are grateful to the COP for listening to our case and adjusting accordingly.

“We pledge to continue working closely with CITES groups to support conservation efforts in a thoughtful and responsible manner.”

Sebastian Fabal
Senior Director Of Operations And Outreach, Reverb.com

“For private sellers in particular, CITES regulations often hindered the opportunity to get their gear in front of musicians all over the world. These sellers typically either limited their inventory to local buyers only, or they sold items internationally – unaware of the regulation – and ran into issues after the item was shipped.

“It will be easier for private sellers to get their gear into the hands of musicians all over the world when CITES regulations are relaxed. With a lower barrier to entry, more sellers of all types can offer these instruments for sale online. The biggest winner here will be buyers, who will begin to have access to a larger variety of these instruments from all over the world on sites like Reverb.”

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