Ghana has concluded discussions with Cameroun for the importation of timber to increase her raw material supply in the timber industry, Mr Mike Hammah, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said on Monday.
He said these were short and medium-term measures being adopted to ensure the industry remained in active business.
Mr Hammah said this in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of the Northern Sector Timber Association (NORSTA) made up of exporters and importers of timber products in Sunyani.
Mr Hammah said the government was aware of the gradual depletion of forest resources and is pursuing policy interventions to address challenges in the timber industry.
He said Cabinet had approved the revision of the forest and wildlife policy which would be launched before the end of the year for implementation.
The revised policy now shifts focus from only timber production to non-consumptive values of the forest including protection of water bodies, conservation of biological diversity and ecotourism development.
Mr Hammah said the Ministry in collaboration with the Forestry Commission (FC) and other stakeholders had developed a draft Timber Procurement Policy to ensure that only legal timber were used in all public development projects.
He said he was optimistic that effective implementation of the policy would reduce the trade in illegal lumber on the domestic market.
Mr Hammah said the FC had also established a rapid response unit to deal with illegal chainsaw operations and other forest offences especially at the forest gate and major transportation routes.
In addition, the Ministry has secured a Fiat from the Attorney’s General’s Department to empower the FC to establish a unit to prosecute forest offences.
The Sector Minister explained that this was to ensure that sanctions imposed on culprits were more deterrent and advised the association to take active interest in the National Forest Plantation Development Programme to secure a more reliable raw material supply base for their operations.
He said a major challenge facing the sector was how to allocate timber resources outside forest reserves where illegal logging activities were widespread.
“The challenge is that the current law for the granting of timber rights did not provide for resources outside forest reserves. Efforts are being made to address this by the enactment of a Legislative Instrument for such areas.”
Mr Oduro Kwarteng, Chairman of NORSTA, said the association was formed because of the illegal felling of Rosewood in the sector with the active involvement of foreigners.
He said the association was determined to help eliminate the activities of illegal contractors and chainsaw operators who did not pay any stumpage to the FC.
Mr Oduro said NORSTA had acquired 40 acres of land in the Atebubu/Amantin District to commence an afforestation programme and appealed to the Government for assistance.