Weak performance of GFC not addressed in letter

Dear Editor,

The letter signed by Ajai Persaud entitled ‘Upset by criticism of Guyana Forestry Commission’ (SN, February 1, 2009) fails to address the weak performance of the GFC and its weakly founded support for the Asian logger, Barama.  It is not enough for Mr Persaud to have been trained to estimate an annual allowable cut.  What is needed is evidence that –

(1) this training has been and is being put into practice routinely, objectively, impartially and for all holders of long-term concessions (WCLs and TSAs);

(2) Barama has been issued annually with species-specific yield limits in accordance with page 8 of the Guyana Forestry Commission’s Code of Practice for Timber Harvesting (second edition, 2002);

(3) the GFC has undertaken post-harvest silvicultural assessments, using the technique developed in 1999, in all the Barama felling areas and the silvicultural assessment reports will be placed immediately on the GFC website − the last reports were in 2002;

(4) the GFC has countermanded Barama’s publicly expressed intention (in the Samling Initial Public Offering documents to the Hong Kong stock exchange in March 2007) not to undertake sustainable forest management practices in the illegally-rented concessions, contrary to the express requirements in the concession licences, and so contravening national forest law;

(5) the GFC has penalised Barama for over-cutting the commercially preferred species and for ignoring the rule on minimum distances of 10 metres between tree stumps (Code of Practice for Timber Harvesting, page 42), and will publish on its website the full details of these forest crimes.

Concerning the pricing of timber logs, international commentators have remarked on the low values declared as FOB Georgetown compared with the landed CIF prices for comparable timbers in China and India, the main destinations for unprocessed logs exported from Guyana, contrary to national policy.  This contrast can be readily observed in the Annual Review and Assessment of the World Timber Situation published by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The discrepancy between prices FOB Guyana and CIF China were first publicised by Mahadeo Kowlessar (‘The figures suggest the under-declaration of the export price of logs is of the order of US$4.8 million per month,’ SN, December 9, 2006).  Since then, although declared Georgetown FOB prices for preferred timbers have risen, so have the prices for comparable timbers exported to China from West and Central Africa and from South East Asia, retaining a discrepancy of around US$320 per cubic metre for Guyana’s timbers. Moreover, although ocean freight rates rose sharply in early 2008, they fell precipitately in the second half of 2008 − this is shown in the graph of the Baltic Supramax Index published each fortnight in the ITTO tropical timber market report (TTM).  So the net effect is to sustain or reinforce the argument of Mr Kowlessar.  And in my own work I use databases from the importing countries as well as ITTO.

The ITTO secretariat has limited research capacity and relies substantially for its fortnightly TTM report on correspondents; indeed, it is seeking more correspondents just now.  However, the ITTO secretariat does try to adjust for doubtful data in its above-mentioned annual review.  For example, between 2006 and 2007 it revised upwards some estimates for Guyana when the GFC itself was adjusting figures downwards.

Yours faithfully,
Janette Bulkan

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