A ministerial team will be heading to the United Kingdom early next year to engage in talks with the hopes of having the ban on Guyana’s greenheart timber reversed.
This was disclosed by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman during a press conference on Friday. According to Trotman, Government is concerned about the situation and a national response will be undertaken to have the restriction lifted.
“Right now we are very interested in restoring the free trade and lifting the ban. We have had communications with the British High Commission. Early in the next year, a delegation at the ministerial level will travel to the UK to press our case… Our concern of course is that this ban, if left (alone), could see its way almost like a virus, spreading itself into Europe and elsewhere,” the Minister said.
He noted that Cabinet has been appraised about the matter, with the Ministries of Business, Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources working assiduously on the matter.
The Natural Resources Minister posited that greenheart is the heart and soul of Guyana’s timber industry and represents, in a sense, the strength of the country; as such, Government needs to ensure that its products are not tainted on the world market.
Moreover, he also pointed out that those who produce logs for export need to be given the markets they desire, which is in the UK.
“So we are very close in terms of working with the EU (European Union) and the EU First Log Governance system and so for us, this is a national issue and it will receive a national response,” he assured.
Furthermore, the Natural Resources Minister outlined that a number of events led to the UK’s restriction, including the practices of the controversial Chinese logging company – BaiShanLin.
“There are many antidotal reasons given and I believe it was a combination of many events including the sense that our forests were being managed or mismanaged in a perilous manner. I believe it may have had some critical aspects attending to it,” he stated.
Trotman continued, “Of course, there was also international lobbying by other countries that produce, not greenheart, but other species that could be used for some of the same applications. So it’s a combination of us being, I believe, outmanoeuvred.”
Coincidentally, the Minister added that the ban was imposed in May last year, when relations between Guyana and Great Britain were at an all-time low.
The decision by a major United Kingdom buyer to stop procuring Guyana’s greenheart lumber has since resulted in the overall export of wood products to that country being cut by almost 65 per cent.
The May 2015 advisory by the Environment Agency (EA), which effected the ban on greenheart exports from Guyana to the UK, saw a dramatic slump in exports to that country, moving from US$3.2 million in 2014 to US$1 million last year; hence, local stakeholders partnered with government to launch a serious lobby to reverse the decision.
EA is one of UK’s biggest buyers of lumber for State projects in that country and Guyana’s Greenheart, until a year ago, was widely used in sea defence projects by UK contractors.
Only last week, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) labelled the ban “unfair”, calling for a review.
The GMSA, in a strongly-worded missive over the weekend, said the “UK agency essentially pronounced on the sustainability of forest management practices in our forests of origin with absolutely no communication or consultation with any local industry stakeholders.”
It was pointed out by the GMSA that given that the markets for tropical forest products were declining and proving challenging: “Incorrect labelling of our forest management practices in this negative way can only be detrimental to the future lives and livelihoods of the 25,000 people directly employed in this industry.”
The GMSA maintains too that available statistics highlight the great efforts that both the industry and the Government have made to ensure “sustainable forest management of our forests for our future generations and that in an ecological sense, our forests are being sustainably managed, an effort clearly verified through abundant, independent, third-party analysis and certification.”