The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has not ruled out the possibility of expanding export licences for logs and other timber products to sawmillers and timber dealers.
However, government warned last week, a decision will not automatically come as there are several things to consider including monitoring capacity.
The Forestry Commission over the years has been frugal in issuing those licences.
For good reasons too…too many licences would prove severe challenges to an understaffed and under-funded GFC, it has been argued.
Recently, small loggers and sawmillers have been clamoring for GFC, as the regulator for the forests, to relax the stance and issue them export licences.
They said it will ease the hardships of selling to a third party, among other things.
With a number of international standards and regulations that Guyana has to meet in order to sell its forest products, the applications have been engaging the GFC board for a number of months now.
On Thursday, during a mid-year review of the Ministry of Natural Resource’s work, Minister Raphael Trotman was questioned whether government is considering issuing export licences to sawmillers and other dealers.
“We do have a national log export policy which the board is considering and I believe that is one issue.”
The official said he has taken note that a group he met in Linden, Region 10, had raised the matter recently.
“…but we have to be careful that we are not licensing will-nilly the export of logs because what that would or could encourage (is) people just going into the forest and we give every sawmill and every group licence to export. We would want to ensure that we have the capacity to monitor such.”
Trotman said that the GFC’s board is examining the merits of the applications now.
“In principle we would like to see the trade being enhanced but not at the cost of us seeing wanton destruction of forests. So that it is something that has been given active consideration…”
According to the half year report of the coalition government, the forestry subsector is estimated to have grown for a second consecutive year, with the production of timber (which includes logs, roundwood, primary lumber, splitwood and fuelwood) rising 7.8 percent above the level achieved at the end of June 2018.
“This pushed growth in the sector to 8.5 percent in the first half of 2019. The improvements to interior roads in the latter half of 2018, saw community loggers, particularly in Region 10, realising higher production levels in the first quarter of 2019.”
According to the report, production continued to surge, driven by small scale concessions and community forestry operators.
“At the end of the first half, log production grew by 6.8 percent, mainly on account of the increased extraction of greenheart logs to meet local demand. On the other hand, weaker international demand for roundwood resulted in a contraction of this category in the second quarter, which resulted in a 2.6 percent decline relative to the previous half-year.”
The report also disclosed that primary lumber producers recorded gains of 32.4 percent in the first half, capitalising on increased local demand for construction.
“The outlook for the remainder of the year remains positive for this subsector, with log production expected to remain high and roundwood to stabilise. Given these factors, the forestry sector is conservatively expected to expand by 5 percent, 3.1 percentage points above the projection in Budget 2019.”
Several community and small loggers have been complaining of lack of access to markets and has called for a change in the log export policy since the beginning of this year.
The small loggers argued that if they are allowed to export directly, then they can expand the species range.
“The domestic market for logs only buying selective species and the measurement and payments system is very unfair to the small loggers,” one sawmiller said. “We can see at least a 15-20% increase in national log production if this policy is changed where GFC, the small loggers and foreign exchange will benefit.”
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