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Government admits huge disparities in Rosewood export to China

Wed, 19 Feb 2020 Source: goldstreetbusiness.com

The technical committee constituted to investigate the illegal Rosewood trade has admitted that there are significant differences between the volumes of the tree species that were exported from Ghana to China.

It noted that the significant disparities are largely due to the deliberate misclassification and mis-declaration by freight forwarders, as a result of a lack of institutional capacity in Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in relation to timber species identification.

The committee has recommended an extensive interagency collaboration between the institutions involved – being the Forestry Commission, Police Service, GRA Customs and the Intelligence agencies – to ensure that all activities of banned and endangered Rosewood trees are brought to a complete halt.

Again, field investigations revealed that there are several weakness and lapses in the Rosewood trade from the community level to the ports. This is due to the highly informal nature of the trade as communities harvest the timber for sale to agents who then aggregate for sale to traders and in turn resell to buyers, mostly Chinese, the report stated.

In August 2019, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, inaugurated a seven-member Committee to investigate a report by the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA), a team of international investigators and campaigners against environmental crime and abuse.

It alleged that between 2012 to 2019, more than six million Rosewood trees have been cut down in Ghana for illegal export to China, with the EIA report blaming some corrupt Ghanaian officials for forging documents to allow the wood to leave the country.

However, the government committee’s report insisted that the actual Rosewood timber harvested between 2012 to 2019, using the Chinese import data, amounted to 489,766 trees, rather than six million trees, adding that Ghana did not have that quantity of merchantable Rosewood trees to be harvested and exported during the period in question.

“The allegation by the EIA that Ghana has exported over six million Rosewood trees between the period 2012 – 2019 is a gross over-estimation of Ghana’s Rosewood export trade volumes

Effective collaboration between GRA-Customs and Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) at the port of exit is very essential especially in the identification of wood species before exports”, Mr. Asomah-Cheremeh stated

Similar scenario on gold export

The disparities on the volume of Rosewood timber export to China can similarly be compared to some other export commodities, most especially gold.

For instance, Ghana’s official export data for gold trading with Switzerland in 2018 amounted to export value of a little over US$3 billion. However, Switzerland’s gold import figures with Ghana revealed that they had imported more than US$7 billion worth of gold, this being more than double the total export revenue recorded by Ghana. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recorded US$7 billion worth of gold imports from Ghana, but Ghana’s official data for export to UAE showed just US$2 billion.

It is expected that the disparities in the figures would have risen significantly if all exports and imports data between Ghana and the countries that buy gold were to be examined.

This is why Ghana is in the process of implementing its export and import indices being supported by the World Bank and the regional economic trade union, ECOWAS.

Source: goldstreetbusiness.com