The arithmetic presented by Minister Robert Persaud (‘IDB forest project kicks off,’ Kaieteur News, November 13, 2008) for the forest area annually logged and its production obscures rather than reveals the unsustainable forest harvesting in Guyana.
According to the semestral Forest Sector Information Report on the website of the Guyana Forestry Commission for January-June 2008, there are 1,509,000 ha of 2-year ordinary State Forest Permissions (SFP) and conversion State Forest Permissions, 71,000 ha of 8-year Wood Cutting Leases (WCL), and 4,675,000 ha of 25-year Timber Sales Agreements (TSA).
Converting these figures to annual harvest areas gives a total of 950,000 ha, which is very nearly six times larger than Minister Persaud’s 160,000 (this 950,000 is calculated by dividing the SFP area by 2, the WCL area by 8 and the TSA area by 25, and summing the results).
The Minister suggests an allowable log production of 1,200,000 cubic metres (m3) from those 160,000 ha, an average of 7.5 m3 per ha as against the GFC Code of Practice limit of 20 m3/ha. However, Minister Persaud says that only 500,000 m3 are cut (GFC published 516,000 m3 roundwood equivalent from logs and chainsawn lumber in 2007), an average of 3.1 m3 per ha.
What these contrary figures, and the GFC website, conceal is the continued massive unsustainable logging of the heavy coloured timbers which should be retained for conversion in our own industries in Guyana, according to national policies and the PPP/C 2006 manifesto, but which continue to be exported in raw form to China and India. For example, purpleheart is being overcut at a rate some 30 times its natural ability to regenerate. China recorded imports of 28,300 m3 of logs from Guyana during the same January-June 2008 when the GFC published total log exports of 37,400 m3. That is, China took 76 per cent of these logs to make the furniture and flooring which we could be manufacturing and exporting from Guyana. It is disingenuous to use averages to explain the forestry situation in Guyana because some of the most important timber trees are closely associated with particular kinds of soil and topography.
What does the Minister mean when he says that “Guyana has a deliberate policy of sustainable management of its natural resource” and “Guyana as having some of the best conserved and best utilised forests in both the Guiana Shield, as well as in the Amazon Region”?