Timber production declines during first half of 2011

- export prices hold firm

Log production in the local forestry sector during the first half of this year fell below last year’s figure for the corresponding period by more than 34 per cent despite the significantly increased demand for wood products accounted for chiefly by the country’s accelerated housing drive.

The recently released Ministry of Agriculture Commodity Market Update for April to June indicates that log production for the first half of the current year stood at 90.323.70 cubic metres compared with 138,500.16 cubic metres for the same period last year.

The statistics also point to a general decline in timber and plywood production for the period. Roundwood production slipped from 7,046.23 cubic metres during the January – June 2010 to 5,977.21 cubic metres during the first half of this year. Sawn wood production fell from 30,248.11 cubic metres during the first half of last year to 28,541.29 cubic metres between January and June this year. Plywood production also plummeted to 3,658.00 cubic metres during the first half of 2011 from 10,395.69 cubic metres between January and June last year.

The construction sector is plagues by a serious lumber shortage

The figures give credence to claims of a scarcity of timber to meet local demand made recently by contractors and other operators in the building trade which prompted the intervention of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and, subsequently, Agricul-ture Minister Robert Persaud.

The statistics also point to a decrease in the volume of timber exports as well as earnings from the overseas market. For the period January to June 2011 exports earnings fell to US$19,281,665.77, from US$23,971 over the same period last year.

Earnings from log exports for the first half of this year slipped to US$7,109.480.79 from US$8,384,540.90 during the corresponding period last year, while earnings from sawn wood fell moderately from US$10,598.801 during the first half of 2010, to US$10,137,532.16 between January and June this year. And in the wake of the temporary closure of the Barama Company Ltd operations, export earnings from plywood tumbled from US$2,581,428.98 during the January to June 2010 to a mere US$284,372 in the corresponding period this year.

Overall, export prices for logs fell by 11.79 per cent during the first half of 2011 compared with the corresponding period last year. However, export prices for plywood, roundwood and sawnwood all rose during the first half of 2011 compared with the same period last year though reduced production meant that local producers were unable to optimize their earnings from the sale of these woods. Meanwhile, the International Tropical Timber Organization’s (ITTO) Tropical Timber Market Report for the second half of August 2011 reports an overall increase in prices for greenheart and purpleheart on the international market. According to the report, undressed greenheart prices jumped from US$550 to US$575 per cubic metre over the two-week period. Prices for undressed purpleheart rose from US$925 to US$1,018 over the same period.

With the return to full production at Barama, the report indicates, export earnings from plywood have now begun to benefit from firm demand particularly in the Caribbean.