Barama Company Limited (BCL) is committed to regaining Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and is complying with the guidelines of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Commissioner of Forests, James Singh says.
He made the comment while responding to a question at a Ministry of Agriculture press briefing held yesterday. It has been two years since BCL’s FSC certification was suspended by SGS-Qualifor (SGS), an independent FSC-accredited certification body.
Barama had been awarded the certification in February 2006 for 570,000 hectares of its forests in west central Guyana by SGS, only a portion of its vast concession. Its certification had been suspended on January 2007 following an audit, for failing to maintain the standards in forest management which it had previously reached.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had been working with the forestry company to regain certification but the conservation body’s country manager, Dr Patrick Williams had told this newspaper recently that the WWF had stopped working with the company a while ago as there were too many issues and it did not seem that the company would regain the distinction.
He had stated that the company does not have the managerial or technical capabilities and the company did not seem to be making a serious attempt to deal with the issues. He had said that the WWF was disappointed at the way the issue turned out because the organization had put a lot of resources into assisting the company.
He had noted that Barama may well be gradually working on the issues but he was not aware that much had happened and said further that he did not think that the company could regain certification in the foreseeable future.
BCL company officials have not been available to speak with this newspaper on the issue.
But, questioned on the topic yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud stated that the last report received by the Ministry showed that “in the main” BCL was in compliance with the environmental and forestry guidelines. The minister stated that last year, the company was moving steadfastly in dealing with the concerns that were affecting its FSC programme and the Ministry had been monitoring it very closely. He said that one of the factors serving as a hindrance was mining operations and these were outside the control of the company and the forestry sector.
He declared that the operations had a direct impact on the company receiving FSC certification.
Persaud said that the Ministry had not seen a formal report from the WWF on the matter where the conservation body would have expanded on and explained their position. He asserted that this is something that they may want to explore a bit.
Singh, for his part, said that the WWF may have been concerned about the pace of the work done to be compliant. He declared that Barama has committed to regaining FSC certification and is complying with GFC guidelines.
He added that there had been some “minor social issues” to sort out and this had been done.
Meantime, Persaud stated that Forest Stewardship certification is one attribute that the Agriculture Ministry has been encouraging those in the sector to acquire.
He noted that though it was a costly undertaking it enhances the marketability of a company’s product and they are able to access much more markets and get a premium price.
He said that this is an area where the Ministry would continue to engage companies like Barama and the Ministry would prefer that all the companies operating in the sector enjoy FSC certification. He asserted that the Ministry would work closely with and encourage the companies to gain such certification. He declared that he hoped that Barama would be successful in recapturing FSC status.