The Forest Products Association of Guyana (FPA) is concerned that President Bharrat Jagdeo didn’t consult with members of the group before unveiling his proposal on making Guyana’s forest available towards the fight against climate change.
The proposal will have grave implications for the members of the Association and on the industry as a whole.
Speaking at a foresters’ forum hosted by the Association at the King’s Plaza Hotel yesterday, Public Relations Consultant to the FPA, Kit Nascimento lamented that the President didn’t see it fit to discuss with members of the association – the direct stakeholders – the proposal to deploy the forest and its implications for the operators of the forests.
The President had announced this offer during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Meeting at the National Cultural Centre. He disclosed that Guyana’s offer of almost its entire rainforest in the fight against climate change was still on the table. During his speech, Jagdeo said that in a meeting last year with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair he “outlined our offer to deploy almost our entire rainforest – which is the size of England – in the long term service of the world’s battle against climate change. That offer remains”.
The form of the offer and the exact details of it in terms of how much of the forest is being referred to are still unknown.
“That rainforest gives you and your family livelihood and he (the President) hasn’t discussed it with you,” Nascimento told the gathering of forest producers. He also referred to the slew of new regulations and standards to come into place from January 1, 2008 on all lumber dealers, traders and lumber yards and said too that there was no consultation with the stakeholders when these were being crafted.
He said that it was obvious the President’s actions come on the heels of the developed world touting the protection of forests as a way of buying off their carbon emissions. “The developed countries have destroyed their forests and now they are telling us what to do with our own,” he said.
He said that the Government is reacting to an international position with regard to climate change in which the international community is in negotiations to pay a price for standing forests not to be touched.
He asked whether the forest producers were part of the seismic shift in the Government’s attitude towards the sector. Nascimento made the point that the Association needs to be strengthened so it could properly and in an organised manner represent the concerns of the forest producers and get positive results through such representation.
None of the members of the FPA present at the meeting had any knowledge of the forest offer prior to it being reported in the press after the President had made his speech.
The members raised concerns that the new policy on Guyana’s forests will conflict with their business aims and they want clarity as to what exactly the President’s offer means for the industry.
A nexus has been drawn between the forest offer and the administration’s increasingly tough stance on forest practices, now on the front burner with sanctions against Barama Company Limited, which was last week fined $96.4M for a number of offences related to under-declaration and false declaration of origin of produce. Barama’s relationship with a number of small timber operators has also been suspended. So far, Barama is refusing to comment on whether the company will pay the fine or file an appeal against it.