Oct 02, 2016 News
-high level meeting tomorrow to discuss matter
By Leonard Gildarie
Local logging companies are deeply worried about a major development that threatens its export
market to the United Kingdom (UK).
Tomorrow, a high profile team of Government officials is set to meet stakeholders in a move designed to bring pressure on the UK authorities to reverse a decision by the Environment Agency which raises questions of sustainable logging practices in Guyana deriving from an apparent poor review process.
In effect, that decision has reduced the exports of Greenheart from Guyana to UK by more than half, local companies confirmed Friday.
The Environment Agency is the single biggest end-user of Greenheart from Guyana.
In May last year, that UK entity warned its contractors and other stakeholders that it will only purchase tropical hardwoods that have sufficient evidence of legality and sustainability.
Environment Agency went further. In its notice last year May, it said that the decision will see the prohibition of the purchases of new shipments of Greenheart hardwood as “currently there is insufficient evidence available to prove that the forests of origin are sustainably managed.”
This determination apparently did not involve any in-depth due diligence or consultation
with the Guyanese counterparts.
Local officials have been scrambling frantically since last year to stave off the possible repercussions.
With Greenheart one of the most popular timber used in especially marine applications, because of its suitability to staying for years in the water, local loggers are claiming that exports between 2014 to current have fell more than 50 percent.
The bigger implication for Guyana is that the Environment Agency’s decision could affect the entire Guyana timber market to Europe and other places if other buyers begin to take the same stance and question the sustainability of Guyana’s timbers.
It would also fly in the face of intense efforts by Guyana to ensure rigorous systems are in place that says timber is harvested in legal manner.
A US$250M landmark deal with Norway to ensure Guyana’s forest remains intact, and that
activities are in keeping with strict international standards, have triggered intense monitoring thanks mainly to tougher measures to reduce illegal logging.
More than US$100M has been released by Norway signalling that local logging activities remain above board.
The issue of the restrictions was raised last Thursday at the Pegasus Hotel during a key international seminar on European Union Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (EU-FLEGT) which is looking to establish measures in ensuring that timber is harvested in compliance with the country’s laws and regulations.
Among those present at the forum were Chairperson of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Jocelyn Dow.
Updating several local and international players who were invited to speak at the forum, Roderick Aitken, of Aitken & Howard, a major buyer from UK, disclosed that the Environment Agency funds many of the large sea defense projects.
There are threats to the local timber market to Europe with a possible FLEGT agreement not guaranteeing acceptance by all EU member states given the current UK restriction on Guyana Timbers, it was pointed out.
He urged serious pressure to be placed on EU member states to ensure FLEGT is recognised and applied fairly and consistently.
What would be more worrying for Guyana is what Aitken said.
He disclosed that while previously greenheart represented a major part of Environment Agency projects – as much as 95 percent of it being used – between 2014 to 2016, it dropped to about 30 percent.
Contractors, because of the Environment Agency’s direction, were forced to use the more expensive and less durable hardwood sourced from West Africa and other places.
Timber exports represent a major export earner for Guyana, last year totaling US$45.6M, compared to the US$54.1M in 2014.
Local loggers, according to industry officials yesterday, were hoping that the UK’ High Commission to Guyana as well as this country’s representative, Hamley Case, would be called in to pressure the UK government on the issue.
Expected to take part in tomorrow’s meeting are Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, British High Commissioner and representatives of the private sector.Work using greenheart being done in the UK.
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