Vaitarna set to start building wood processing facility at Wineperu

Having invested US$14 million since commencing operations here, logging company Vaitarna Holding Private Incorporated (VHPI) is in an advanced stage of setting up its promised wood processing facility at Wineperu, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud has said.

In response to questions from Stabroek News, Persaud said he was advised by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) that the facility is located at the company’s log yard at Wineperu on the west bank of the Essequibo River. “The facility is being constructed on an area of approximately 30,000 square feet. The land has been cleared; the surveying and design of the structure is in progress; and construction is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2014,” he said.

Vaitarna’s director Chethan Narayan was unavailable when Stabroek News contacted the firm’s office several times over the past weeks. Company officials said that Narayan would return calls to Stabroek News but this was not done. The company had said that a wood processing facility would be set up here and since it began operations over three years ago, it has exported logs to India and China. Persaud had previously said that there would be no large-scale export of logs by Vaitarna.

The minister told Stabroek News recently that he was advised by the GFC that the company is in preparation for swift commencement of processing as soon as construction is completed in the coming months. Already, two Wood Mizer WM 4000 have been ordered, complete with additional value-added equipment such as equipment for material handling, resawing and edging, he said. The equipment are expected to arrive in Guyana within three months and start-up of processing is scheduled to commence within six to eight months.

According to the information received by Stabroek News, input capacity of these mills is approximately 24,000 cubic metres per year with an output capacity of approximately 14,000 cubic metres of processed timber. Persaud was advised that once the wood processing operation is fully operational, the next phase planned by Vaitarna is the installation of kiln drying facilities in accordance with the GFC guidelines.

The GFC said that to date, overall investment by Vaitarna is approximately US$14 million for machinery acquisition, road construction, marine transportation, base camp and accommodation facilities. Among the equipment acquired are 15 Caterpillar machinery and other equipment, log loaders, skidders, bulldozers, compactors, excavators, dump truck, back hoe loader, crane, logging trucks, Model M trucks, and a pick-up. Additionally the company has acquired two barges and one tug to support its marine transportation needs.

As it relates to its base camp, 18 staff houses, several base camps, six executive houses, a canteen, administrative office and a workshop have been constructed at Wineperu.

Stabroek News understands that the current employment level of the company is 80 fulltime staff, and 30 contractors mainly engaged in forest inventory activities. Approximately 90% of the total staff complement is local persons. It added that this staff complement is planned to increase as Vaitarna’s operations progresses in 2014. Vaitarna’s planned production level for 2014 is 30 000 cubic metres of wood.

The GFC said that the company has constructed 35 kilometres of new primary roads to date and plans to construct an additional 30-40 km of new primary roads in 2014. To date, the company is actively involved in maintaining 125 km of primary and secondary roads.

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 assigned to Caribbean Resources Limited (CRL). The government accepted an offer of $600 million for the Timber Sales Agreement.  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, making it the second largest forestry concession holder in Guyana.

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