Barama Company Limited has been slapped with $106M in fines for breaches in three concessions, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) said yesterday.
Following investigations, the GFC has also dismissed two field officers resident at the locations for “ineffective monitoring” and all three sub-contractual operations with the three companies holding the concessions have been immediately suspended a press release said. However, one concession holder remains steadfast that its operations with Barama are on the “books” and that there is no “secrecy.”
On September 25, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud announced that the GFC had launched an investigation into suspected cases of under declaration of forest produce harvested, and false declarations about the origin of forest produce harvested. This announcement followed on the heels of a revelation in July that the GFC discovered that there were procedural breaches with regard to the under declaration of forest produce harvested and false declarations with respect to the origins of forest produce involving: A Mazaharally and Sons Limited, Barakat Tim-bers and Trading Company Limited, Barama Company Limited and N Sukul and Sons.
When Stabroek News (SN) contacted Barama for a comment on the fine the company had no comment at the time however, it said it would issue a statement to the press today. The manager of Barakat Tim-bers at Charity, Essequibo, who declined to give his name, told SN the pressure from various letters/articles published by this newspaper on the forest industry “help to create it (the fine).” He said the company has a contract with Barama to log in their concession and that the GFC has a copy of this agreement. “There is no secret deal,” he argued, reiterating that the GFC knows of the contract and has a copy. The manager said that he knows nothing about a breach in his concession by Barama, explaining that whatever logs are harvested at the concession; the royalties are being paid by Barama and nothing is done in secret; “Everything is on the books” and “in the open air.” Representatives from Mazaharally and N Sukul could not be reached yesterday for a comment.
According to a GFC press release after investigations in September it found that in July Barama transported a quantity of logs harvested from ESS 10/92, issued to Barakat Timbers Limited, to Buck Hall while the quantity of logs it declared to the GFC in July was below the harvested amount. Additionally, the findings show that Barama harvested and removed, without the GFC’s permission, a large quantity of logs from the concession 2/90 issued to Mazaharally. Also, the tags issued to Barama and Barakat were used on stumps located within the concession issued to Mazaharally.
It was also found that Barama removed a quantity of logs from WCL 05/93, issued to N. Sukul, without approval from the GFC. This, the GFC said, is evidence of unauthorized harvesting and extraction of forest produce. Plus, the GFC found that the “harvesting operations on the ground were not conducted in a manner that had serious negative environmental implications.” The GFC said these findings were made after “a detailed analysis of records was done, including a comparison of the documentation supplied to the GFC by the companies with the internal records of the companies.” The GFC monitoring teams were also said to have been deployed to the concession areas to quantify the extent of the breaches, and to determine if there were additional breaches.
The results of the investigations, “confirmed the GFC’s initial findings that there was under declaration of forest produce harvested, as well as false declaration with respect to the origin of the logs harvested,” the release said. “In addition, it was verified that Barama