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General News Mon, 16 Aug 2010

Timber loggers cry foul

Members of the Ghana Timber Millers’ Organization have called for stringent measures to curb illegal logging in the country.

Blaming unlicensed chainsaw operators for the illegal timber trade in the country, the timber millers hinted that Ghana could be black-listed on the international market if the issue is not addressed.On the international front there are campaigns to stop the destruction of the forest by making it a criminal offence to engage in the illegally trade in timber.

The European Union (EU) is Ghana’s most valuable market, accounting for 43 percent of the value of total exports and 33 percent of total volume of exported timber.

The EU signed an agreement with the latter to ensure that exported timber is obtained from legal sources.

In Ghana, there is a ban on illegal chainsaw operations, but there are reports of lack of standards and regulation in the timber industry.

Of late, wood consumption has skyrocketed with indications that local consumers prefer bush-cut and bush-milled timber to lumber from saw mills.

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At a meeting with stakeholders in the timber industry organized by the Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission, participants agreed that more stringent legal standards need to be enforced to ensure sanity.

Samuel Afari Dartey, Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, speaking at the national consultative workshop, noted that weakness in law enforcement, lack of commitment as well as inappropriate strategies adopted in the past have hampered efforts to prevent illegal lumber from getting onto the market.

“There is strong indication that there is woeful lack of standardization on the domestic market,” he stated. However, he noted that the Forestry Commission is doing everything possible, through its Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD), to engage stakeholders in the industry regarding institutional and policy reforms in order to address the problem.

The Chief Executive mentioned that government has initiated a new private sector driven plantation programme under which 30,000 hectors of plantation would be established annually.

Nana Dwomoh Sarpong, president of the Ghana Timber Millers’ Organisation, later in an interview, noted that chain saw operators are springing up on a daily basis with no proper regulation. He also indicated that there is excessive use of wood in the construction of buildings, explaining that it accounts for the increase in demand for timber and called for a drastic reduction in the use of wood.

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“We overuse wood and that leads to the destruction of the forest which affect economic activities and the lives of people. We need to protect our forests.”

A survey revealed that timber merchants have identified three major challenges that hamper the supply of legal timber to the domestic market.

These, according to them, include high prices of saw mill lumber, consumer preference for bush-cut timber and the irregular supply of lumber from saw mills.

Wood consumers on the other hand claim that the poor quality of lumber, unavailability of the require species, as well as high prices constrain the acquisition of wood.

Source: Daily Guide