Domestic lumber firms and traders in Ghana will soon import logs from other countries to shore up the demand for wood products on the local market, the Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Ms Barbara S. Asamoah, has said.
She said the move would enable the wood companies to bring in raw lumbers that would be processed as raw materials to revamp the one-time vibrant industry.
“Currently, my ministry is discussing the possibilities of obtaining some tax waivers to enable the members of the Domestic Lumber Traders Association (DLTA) to bring down their first consignment of lumber imports from Guyana,” she said.
Ms Asamoah made the announcement at the opening of the fifth National Forestry Forum for stakeholders in the forestry sector at Dodowa in Accra.
The event was held on the theme, “Deepening the forest dialogue — Contributing to sustainable forest management”. It was aimed at deepening forest dialogue to improve transparency and forest governance.
It was attended by participants from the Forestry Commission (FC), civil society organisations, local communities and industry players and was sponsored by the EU and the FC.
Revamping wood industries
Ms Asamoah said the rapid depletion of the country’s forest covers, once endowed with abundant big trees was causing many of the wood processing firms to fold up.
She, therefore, expressed optimism that the capacity of members of the DLTA to import timber into Ghana and not pay import duties will help revamp the lumber industry to create more employment avenues.
“Besides, the economy also stands to benefit if these companies are supported to contribute their quota,” Ms Asamoah stated.
The deputy minister also said the forestry sector continued to be saddled with a number of challenges such as illegal logging, chainsaw lumbering, weak law enforcement, excessive mining and pollution of rivers.
She, therefore, urged stakeholders to critically examine issues of illegal chainsaw and galamsey operations which continued to be a major threat to sustainable resource management.
Tackling forest offences
She said her outfit had increased law enforcement by establishing a Rapid Response Unit within the FC and deploying trained teams to various hot spots to clamp down on illegal activities.
“We are training selected FC staff to undertake prosecution of forest offences which was previously done by the Ghana Police Service,” she said.
“We are also considering implementing various policy options for the supply of legal timber to the domestic market and introducing a public procurement policy for timber, which requires that only legal timber can be used for any government project,” she added.
“We are not competitors”
The Director of the Nature and Development Foundation, Mr Mustapha Seidu, said as the government strove to find solutions to challenges in the forestry and the environmental sector, government agencies should give recognition to the contribution of civil society organisations as complementing the government’s efforts and not competing with them.
“We hope that the government recognises the urgency with which it must act against illegal forest activities and improve forest governance,” he said.
A Programme Officer in charge of Infrastructure and Sustainable Development of the European Union, Mr Christopher Ackon, stated that the EU’s assistance to the forestry sector in Ghana was aimed at ensuring that forest resources were used sustainably to the greatest benefit of the poorest people.