Train local people to handle forestry machines - FIAG to NVTI

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
Chief Executive Officer of the Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG), Dr Kwame Asamoah Adam
Chief Executive Officer of the Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG), Dr Kwame Asamoah Adam

Lack of locally trained personnel to operate timber processing machines in the country is compelling players in the forestry industry to rely on expatriates to perform such jobs.

The situation, according to players, is denying many Ghanaians some job opportunities and also increasing the operational cost of the sector, hence affecting the markets prices of wood products in the country.

To help address the situation, the Chief Executive Officer of the Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG), Dr Kwame Asamoah Adam, wants the government through the National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) to develop a training programme to train local people to handle some of the complex forestry machinery.

Press conference

Speaking at a press conference organised by the FIAG in Accra on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, Dr Adam noted that because there was no institution in the country currently training people to handle forestry machinery, players had to rely on foreigners, particularly India and other East Asian nationals to perform such jobs.

He said the forestry sector provides huge employment opportunities, particularly for skilled labour, pointing out that the industry currently employs more than 400,000 people (directly and indirectly) in the country.

Dr Adam mentioned saw blade maintenance; operation of lumber and veneer drying machines; operation of computer numerical control (CNC) machines; steam generation or boiler machines; glue mixing and veneer compressors as some of the areas players lacked locally trained people to handle.

He stressed that since there was no training institution in the country to offer training in the manning of forestry equipment, companies had to either go for expatriates or sent their staff abroad to be trained in such areas.

Decline/challenges

The FIAG CEO said although the country’s timber industry had been operating for 130 years and contributed tremendously to the nation’s economy, the sector had seen massive decline in its output in the last two decades due to dwindling forest resources through multiple factors including competing land uses such as expansion of farm lands, mining and settlements.

He said the herculean bureaucratic process that players had to go through to acquire as well as to sell their products both locally and externally all contribute to increased cost of production.

“Locally, forest industries are required to comply with many rules and regulations all of which dove tails into international rules,” Dr Adam noted, adding “over-regulation of the business processes leading to bureaucratic bottlenecks and high cost of doing business” was making the industry unattractive.

For him, to do business under herculean bureaucratic process “require a lot of courage and experience to comply with rule and regulations”, pointing out that the stressful system players had to go through to acquire and sell their products sometimes compelled some beginners in the sector to operate illegally.

He also mentioned lack of access to credit facilities as one of the major challenges confronting players in FIAG, explaining that because investments in the sector takes a lot of time to mature, many financial institutions are unwilling to grant players credit facilities.

COVID-19

Touching on the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, Dr Adam said the emergence the disease had even worsened the situation of the industry, noting that the sector’s export reduced by more than 60 per cent as many of its major markets imposed lockdowns.

He added that because foresters were also not considered as part of the essential workers during the lockdown and their work took many months to process, their supplies had gone down drastically.

Additionally, he noted, “increasing global demand for quality manufactured products” was also causing the sector to lose many of its premium markets, pointing out that the “inability to meet quality standards” was due to lack of funds to retool and adopt appropriate technology.

Dr Adam also cited ineffective government system of timber resource allocation, resulting in high cost of raw material acquisition, hence calling on government to ensure rational allocation of timber resources.

FIAG

FIAG is an umbrella body that seeks to strengthen the private forestry sector to response appropriately to current challenges of climate change, sustainability of forestry resources and trends in global trade.

The association, which is two-years now and would be officially inaugurated on July 3, 2021, has membership from Ghana Timber Millers Organisation(GTMO); Ghana Timber Association(GTA); Furniture and Wood Products Association of Ghana(FAWAG); Wood Workers association of Ghana(WAG); Ghana sawn timber Sellers association(GSTSA); Domestic lumber Traders Association(DOLTA); Domestic Lumber Manufacturers Association of Ghana(DOLMAG); National Association of Handicraft Exporters(NAHE); Kumasi Wood Cluster(KWC); and Ghana Canoe Carvers Association(GCCA).