Lumber shortage… Industry eyes alternative wood species for govt. contracts
– price website, wallaba posts among options mulled
By Leonard Gildarie
A major meeting between players in the wood business, last Friday, while not immediately finding solutions to reduce the shortage of lumber on the local market, took an interesting turn, with attention now being focused on addressing some of the serious concerns in the industry, in a more long term manner.
However, two key stakeholders group – contractors and architects – were not present at the meeting held before a packed room at Sleep Inn, on Brickdam.
Last week Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that a number of contracts have been placed on hold because of the wood shortage. Government also said it has received complaints of high prices.
A follow-up meeting on Friday saw several suggestions, more long term in nature, which among other things called for operators to reduce processing losses.
Among the issues tackled were determining the demands for lumber on the local market; finding ways to develop standard dimension sizes; and measures to speed up the introduction of lesser used species of wood to the domestic market.
Last week, Barama Company Limited said it has around one million board feet (approximately 2358 m3) and was releasing that to the local market.
Several of the loggers present felt that there were no shortages, just high demand for particular species.
Another company, Bulkan Timberworks of Yarrowkabra said it has 100,000 board measurement (BM) of first quality greenheart at that site at $150 per BM. There were quantities that the shingle-making company had in stock at its Waraputa operations and was selling this for $110 per BM.
Last week, as a temporary measure to build-up local supplies, government announced an immediate halt to exports of logs by middlemen or businesses without forestry concessions.
To determine the local demands, there were suggestions to use figures from the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Bureau of Statistics. Figures could also be obtained from small and medium operators on the demands made on them by customers.
There were objections from operators for a total ban on log exports, but it was pointed out that a number of countries had moved to do the same thing, including Brazil, Malaysia and Russia, as a means to spur more value-added processing.
According to furniture maker, Mohabeer Singh who presented some of the recommendations to the workshop on behalf of one of three groups, there are also other approaches to increase supplies and lower costs. These include a “common” kiln-drying facility and sawmill in strategic areas, to be controlled by a cluster group of operators.
Additionally, depots with lumber for sale at strategic points and a web-page advertising the quantities and prices were also suggested.
There was also a call to reduce the prevalence of chainsaw operations and for the increased usage of portable mills.
However, according to Andrew Mendes, a logging operations executive of Farfan and Mendes, research has shown that portable mills have a lowly recovery rate of 35% while chainsaws are at 44%.
OTHER TYPES OF WOOD
Regarding the increased use of other lesser known species of wood, it was suggested that there should be a comprehensive media advertising and education programme, and training for the stakeholders.
This will be coupled with government’s promotion and actual demonstrations of the wood uses. Information should also be made public on the prices for these other species of wood.
Regarding standard sizes of wood coming on stream rather than any particular Customs order, there were calls for operators to relook at what the market needs, instead of an approach of what is being produced.
Legislation to better protect consumers should also be introduced. It was explained that in most countries, hardware supplies have specific lengths and grades which are being sold. It reduces wastage.
Together with a booklet for homebuilders and training for contractors, Mendes noted that there was a problem of lack of knowledge by players in the industry.
Also at the meeting on Friday were Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud; Transportation Minister, Robeson Benn; representatives of the Forest Products Association (FPA), Forest Products Development and Marketing Council (FPDMC), Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Private Sector Commission (PSC) and a number of sawmillers. There were not any representatives from the lumberyards.
Persaud warned that government will be looking to re-examine its bills of quantities and will be working directly with its architects to examine alternatives to the current demands being placed for wooden piles, among other concerns. The use of wallaba for power poles was also a source of concern.
Already, government is re-allocating unused forestry concession.
According to Minister Benn, there is a shortage in the market, with a hinterland project in the North West District forced to take materials as far away as the Berbice River. He urged for attention to be paid to the supply chain and even suggested that logs may have to be barged rather than transported by road which places a huge burden on the infrastructure.
Over the last two years, government has plugged over $2B into repairing and maintaining hinterland roads. There may have to be an arrangement for tolls to be introduced on certain roads to recover some of this money back. There could also be the introduction of more truck scales to prevent road damage from overweight vehicles.
According to Benn, the government will be considering measures to further prolong the life of wood by 20 years, by improved handling and more tarring.
Part of the measures may even include a “grow more trees” campaign.
However, the government official warned that resources are stretched thin.
It was disclosed that a few years ago, there were close to 300 sawmilling units, but this has been slashed, with a number of them out of operation.
According to Mendes, who is also part of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), the one big problem is the shortage of raw material supplies.
There is also an urgent need for more training that will improve the quality and efficiency of operations. The official does not believe there is an urgent need for new equipment, but rather, training.
According to FPA President Hilbertus Cort, there is the need for more information on the uses of the lesser known species of wood. One company, Barama Company Limited, has successfully introduced the use of a little known wood – baramalli, which it uses to make plywood.