Two years on…Indian logging firm still to build processing plant

Start-up logging company, Vaitarna Holding Private Incorporated (VHPI) has not yet set up a promised wood processing plant here but company director Chethan Narayan has assured that such a facility is on the cards and the company is doing the groundwork.

“We are still working on it,” Narayan told Stabroek News when contacted last week. VHPI is a subsidiary of the India-based Coffee Day Group. Coffee Day, through its Dark Forest subsidiary, in 2010 acquired the State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) for 391,853 hectares of forest originally awarded in 2007 to US-based Simon and Shock International Logging Inc (SSILI), after buying out SSILI.

After the acquisition, the company registered in Guyana as SSILI. Subsequently, Dark Forest acquired the 345,961 hectares concession which was originally awarded to Caribbean Resources Limited (CRL). The government accepted an offer of $600 million for the Timber Sales Agreement (TSA). The company was registered as VHPI and has been harvesting and exporting logs from this concession.

The total area held by Coffee Day is 737,814 hectares of forest.

The company has committed to set up a processing plant here with V G Siddhartha, owner of the Coffee Day group, saying in May that a processing centre for logs will be set up here but the main facility will be in India.

Narayan told Stabroek News that they are doing the groundwork for the setting up of the plant but could not give a time frame as to when the processing centre will be set up. “We are working on the commercial (aspect),” he said adding that they have to look at the cost, type of production, capacity, market and so on.  “We are working on it,” he assured.

He disclosed that the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) had asked about a month back for a practical plan for setting up a sawmill and this was submitted. In addition, their five-year operational plan includes the setting up of a sawmill, the director said. In the meantime, the company continues to harvest logs from its CRL concession and he noted that it is a new venture. Narayan said that the company has 15 pieces of equipment on the ground and logs are exported and some sold locally.

He noted that in terms of setting up a plant, the company has to look at every aspect. He point out that Vaitarna’s concessions make it the second largest in Guyana and “our setup should be big.”

Meantime, the company has completed all the prerequisites to convert its SFEP for the SSILI concession to a TSA which would allow it to harvest logs and is now awaiting approval from the GFC. “We can get (the) TSA at any moment,” Narayan said adding that they have done all the studies to a high standard.

Siddhartha has said that the company has exported logs from Guyana to India and China. The export of unprocessed logs has long been a concern of activists who argue that Guyana could earn more from processing logs here and exporting the products. Former forestry minister and now Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud had said last year that there would be no large scale export of logs by Vaitarna. (Gaulbert Sutherland)


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