Forests in Danger as Timber Demand Surges: A Growing Domestic Demand for Timber, Especially from the Construction Industry, Is Threatening the Very Existence of Ghana's Forestry Resources. Sawmills Are Exporting Most of Their Products, Leaving the Gap to Be Filled by Illegal Timber Producers. Asmah Frank George Reports from Accra on the Government's Measures to Contain the Situation

By George, Asmah Frank | African Business, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Forests in Danger as Timber Demand Surges: A Growing Domestic Demand for Timber, Especially from the Construction Industry, Is Threatening the Very Existence of Ghana's Forestry Resources. Sawmills Are Exporting Most of Their Products, Leaving the Gap to Be Filled by Illegal Timber Producers. Asmah Frank George Reports from Accra on the Government's Measures to Contain the Situation


George, Asmah Frank, African Business


The government of Ghana is enforcing its recent directive that requires sawmills to sell at least 20% of their timber production on the domestic market. The government has directed the Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of the Forestry Commission to ensure that permits for timber exports are only approved after saw-millers show evidence that they have supplied 20% of their production to the domestic market.

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Furthermore, TIDD has been tasked to ensure that Ghana's timber producers create customer desks for the purchase of timber at their sites. The reason? "Timber millers are unwilling to sell on the local market and export virtually all their produce for foreign exchange," explains Professor Dominic Fobih, minister of lands and forestry.

Currently the domestic timber market is dominated by the supply of illegal chain-saw products. According to Fobih, "the trade in chain-saw timber puts intense pressure on the forests and if the situation is not checked, it could result in the loss of the raw material base of the timber industry and the eventual collapse of the industry."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Fobih added that developing legitimate means of trade for the domestic timber market would enhance the export market and enable the country to maximise the returns from timber exports.

The reality on the ground is that the failure of timber suppliers to meet the demand of the local market with wood is creating an embarrassment to the government. Some building contractors executing official projects have no alternative but to use chain-saw wood, contradicting official government policy.

Under the Timber Resources Management Act of 1997 and its accompanying Timber Resources Management Regulations of 1998, chain-saw lumbering activities in the country are outlawed.

Government is, however, considering reviewing the existing laws to accommodate chain-saw timber operators in an 'alternative livelihood programme', which includes forest plantation thinning; forest boundary demarcation and clearing; forest plantation coppice management; land clearing and other related activities. The ongoing national forest plantation development programme also envisages the recovery of forest timber off-cuts and assisting timber companies in difficult areas.

According to Henry G Coleman, trade and industry manager of the TIDD, "the engagement of chain-saw operators in such alternative livelihood programmes will go a long way to curbing the illegal activities of the chain-saw lumber trade."

Problems of timber under-supply

The domestic trade in sawmill timber has been poorly structured for several reasons. These include the availability of cheap chain-saw timber, the over concentration of most saw-millers on export timber to the exclusion of the domestic market, and a lack of communication between sawmill timber producers and end-users.

A 'Timber Requirement' survey conducted in June 2002 by TIDD among major wood user institutions and agencies, including real estate developers, shows the constraints they face in obtaining timber supplies from Ghana's registered sawmills.

The difficulty in obtaining the specific sizes and types of sawmill timber at the requisite time, and the delay in delivery even when the correct timber can be sourced and is even paid for in advance, were the difficulties cited by end-users.

However, in the intervening years government has taken a number of initiatives, through a combination of market control measures and legislation aimed at promoting the use of saw-mill timber on the domestic market.

These initiatives include:

* Impositions of export levies on selected species in air-dried timber form. The intention of this measure, apart from encouraging the export of kiln-dried timber, is to ensure availability of selected species locally for domestic processing. …

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Forests in Danger as Timber Demand Surges: A Growing Domestic Demand for Timber, Especially from the Construction Industry, Is Threatening the Very Existence of Ghana's Forestry Resources. Sawmills Are Exporting Most of Their Products, Leaving the Gap to Be Filled by Illegal Timber Producers. Asmah Frank George Reports from Accra on the Government's Measures to Contain the Situation
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