Barama Company Limited is confident that with more government support it can expand its integrated operations, particularly if critical issues like the cost of energy, land use and infrastructure are addressed.
Mohindra Chand, Head of Corporate Affairs and Forest Planning for Barama, discussed the company’s challenges and successes with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who travelled to the company’s offices at Buck Hall, Region Two over the weekend to take a first-hand look at its operations, as the company celebrates its 23rd anniversary.
According to a report from the Government Information Agency, Chand said over the years the company has evolved from producing plywood to a fully integrated operations that includes logistics, trucking, barging, sawmilling and veneering which have created the single largest investment in the local forest industry to date.
Despite the challenges Chand said, “We believe that with great support from Government, we can see a lot more being done in the industry, especially, in the area of value added. We know that this is a major national interest to Guyana, and Barama has led that charge to a great extent.”
Considering that Guy-ana’s natural resources continues to attract interest from many stakeholders ranging from those in the extractive industries to those who have an interest in safeguarding the environment, Barama established a certification programme which informs stakeholders that its timber has been legally obtained which can be proven by a traceability system.
This certification is currently at the stage of verified legal origin.
Chand said the certification currently is the largest in the world for a single block of tropical forest.
Within three years Barama plans to elevate the standard of that certification to a higher level that shows more in-depth compliance and not just legal origin.
“This by itself puts Guyana on the world map, and we are proud that we have led the charge and there are many more opportunities in this regard,” he said.
In moving forward, Barama will also address issues such as land use, jointly with the government. As mining is critical to the local economy, Barama sees a need for more co-operation among stakeholders.
“…We need to address the issue of infrastructure, roads in particular, utilisation of the forest, and I see that the Government has taken on a lot of policies to address this. We want to play our part as being direct stakeholder so we can share with government issues on the ground that can be addressed,” Chand said.
According to Chand, energy has proven to be one of the major costs factors to the company, especially in its manufacturing operations.
“We are currently not as competitive as we can be given the cost of energy internationally. I’m talking about our products, they can attract greater margins of returns if we can just bring down the cost of energy.”
Meanwhile, Hinds reiterated that government is still committed to making available cheaper electricity, despite cuts to the budget by the combined opposition. He said that the recent budget cuts are hampering the plans to establish the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project which numbers among a list of projects set to be undertaken via the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
Barama is also urging stakeholders to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) bill, citing it as a threat to business. “We are already feeling the squeeze, our financial transactions are taking weeks compared to days, and in many instances it’s depriving us of timely cash flow,” Chand said.