Local timber businesses say they are being thrown out of business by foreigners

Local timber contractors say they have been thrown out of business because prime lands in forest reserves have been allocated to expatriate loggers.

Speaking to the Ghanaian Times in Accra Thursday, Mr Boateng Poku, chairman of Ghana Timber Association, said local timber contractors were given concessions in open forests, which do not have enough timber species.

Mr Poku said in the past, expatriates were not allowed into logging but were made to take up the secondary and tertiary level of production in the timber industry.

“Thus most of them were into sawmilling and furniture production which added value to the timber for export”, he said.

Mr Poku called for a law to save the local industry ”as many of our members are now jobless and cannot make ends meet with their financial obligations.”

When contacted, an official of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Joseph- Osiakwan, explained that with the country’s timber becoming a scarce resource, the government has resorted to granting of concessions through bidding.

He said the expatriates seemed to have taken over the business because they had the money “and government so needs the money to develop the sector.”

Ghana’s remaining forest estate is under increasing pressure, particularly from agriculture and logging, and this, he said, called for prudence in the allocation of timber resources.

Mr Osiakwan said out of the 8.2 million hectares of forest cover at the start of the 20th century, only about 1.4 hectares remained by 2000.

The present predicament of local timber contractors, he said, emerged when the government banned the export of logs in raw form in which most of them were engaged.

Mr Osiakwan said when the law was passed that value should be added to the logs before exports, most of the local contractors could not meet the huge capital outlay needed and therefore had to fold up, giving the expatriates the opportunity to import machines for sawmilling.

According to him, even with the current development, the volume of logging falls far below the capacities of the sawmills. While the annual allowable cut stands at two million cubic metres, the sawmills need about five million cubic metres to meet their capacity.

He said this had given birth to illegal logging to feed the sawmills since many needed the logs to stay in business and government has responded by embarking on an afforestation project to restore the degraded forest cover.

Source: The Ghanain Times

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