New regulations could shut down timber industry

The lumber industry could be totally shut down come January 1 when new regulations are implemented since many wood operators are simply not ready for the major changes.

This was the feeling among the members of the Forest Products Association (FPA) at a stakeholder forum for the wood sector held on Tuesday at the King’s Plaza Hotel on Main Street.

According to Kit Nascimento, Public Relations Consultant to the FPA, it would be nigh impossible for the members to achieve the standards, which he suggested seemed to be borrowed from some other part of the world and forcibly superimposed on Guyana’s industry.

With a view to moving the issue forward, the FPA has proposed its own draft policies and procedures for the sawmilling sector and there should be some form of engagement between the FPA and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC). Companies not compliant with the regulations face denial of licences.

Some of the new standards concern stacking and racking, end protection, grading, cutting sizes for dressed lumber, moisture content, and recovery rates. The standards also call for lumberyards to have hard floors and for significant changes to be made to buildings housing sawmills.

The FPA through its technical committee had approached the Government with the hope of effecting some changes to the proposed standards. The FPA said that for members to bring themselves in line with the new standards, large sums of money will have to be invested in an industry already facing burdens of VAT and high oil prices.

In a letter to Commissioner of Forests James Singh on October 6, 2007, the FPA said that it realises that the GFC’s intention is to move the industry to a high level of quality consciousness “and we fully support this thought.”

The FPA called for further discussions to be held between itself and the GFC on the best way of implementing the measures to achieve these results.

The body said in its proposal to the Government that commercial market forces, sustainable forest practices, maximum revenue earning potential, environmental care and provision of employment must be the criteria for dictating national policy and in driving the development of the sector.

Log export ban

The FPA said that the imposition of restrictions and a ban on log exports would be unproductive and unrewarding for Guyana. “It would curtail timber production causing loss of employment, discourage private sector investment in the industry, restrict export markets, result in significant export revenue loss to the country, disable sound environmental practices which are being developed and rupture the confidence of present overseas customers and future investors,” the FPA said. At the moment the Government is considering various proposals for the phased restriction of log exports.

According to the FPA, a balanced approach to sustain timber production should be taken in order to enable the optimum production of primary and processed products to respond directly to export and domestic market demand and pricing.

The FPA said that the GFC has failed to make any assessment of labour capacity to satisfy the increased demand which would result from expanding sawmilling activities.

The FPA noted that both Demerara Timbers Limited and Barama Company Limited are reporting shortages of skilled and unskilled labour.

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