Business News of 2014-08-25

Don’t connive to export banned timber - Minister warns

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, has raised concern about the possibility of a connivance between some officials of the Forestry Commission (FC) and some timber exporters in the granting of licences to export rosewood which has been banned.

At the moment, we are faced with a situation where in spite of the ban, there are people who go ahead and cut rosewood for export and they come up with purportedly valid licences,” the minister said during a familiarisation tour of the FC.

The harvesting and exporting of rosewood was banned by Cabinet indefinitely on January 1, 2014.

Until recently, rosewood timber was used locally but demand for the product in Asian markets, particularly China, had increased, leading to the excessive exploitation of the wood.

A temporary ban was imposed in June last year on the harvesting and exporting of rosewood, but it was lifted after new measures were put in place by the ministry and the FC.

However, the then sector Minister, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, at a press briefing in October last year, observed that field monitoring indicated that there had been a rise in the indiscriminate felling of rosewood in fragile and ecologically sensitive savanna zones of the country.

The perpetrators often use some farmers and community members to cut down large volumes of rosewood. They later approach the FC to report that they have detected some illegally felled rosewood and consequently request for salvage permits to haul them, hence the indefinite ban in January this year.

Nii Mills, therefore, called for a concerted effort to deal with the situation before it resulted in judgement debts.

The minister pledged to fully support all actions and programmes in place to ensure that the commission achieved its mission of conserving the country’s forest and wildlife resources.

“We would help the commission to explore avenues to raise funds to continue the plantation development and also conserve existing plantations.”

He noted with concern the fact that a number of wild animals in the country’s reserves were close to extinction as a result of poaching and hunting in the reserves.

The Chief Executive of the Commission, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, drew the attention of the minister to the National Forest Plantation Development programme which was launched in 2002 to restore degraded forest covers but which implementation had been crippled due to lack of funds.

He appealed to the ministry to help the commission secure funds for the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing plantations and also to establish new ones.

Mr Dartey said the FC had received proposals from six private investors seeking to partner it in the Accra Eco-Park project.

The $323-million park project is expected to dramatically improve the Achimota Forest, which is the only greenbelt in Accra. Currently, the forest is rapidly being reduced in size as a result of encroachment and the use of portions of the land as refuse dumps by residents living nearby.

The minister also met the staff of the commission and answered questions bordering on the absence of a board, the status of the Wildlife Bill and services that the commission could charge a fee for rendering.

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