Vaitarna advertises for sawmill operators

Logging company Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc (VHPI) on Wednesday advertised for sawmill operators indicating that it was close to setting up a sawmill.

In an ad in the Stabroek News, the company said that it has vacancies for sawmill operators with a minimum of five years as a band saw operator. Last month, the company had said that it expects to begin value-added production after equipment for its plant is installed in the first quarter of this year.

“The structure for the first phase of (the) sawmill project is complete and electrical works are scheduled to begin within a month’s time,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chethan Narayan had said in a response to an article published in the Stabroek News. He said that the machines for the first phase of project have already arrived in Georgetown and will be moved to the Wineperu site on the Essequibo River for installation during the first quarter of this year. “After installation, a trial run will be held to iron out any issues after which active added value production will commence,” Narayan.

Stabroek News had reported last month that Vaitarna was yet to begin operations at a long-delayed wood processing facility and company officials were tight-lipped on its status, though one official said that they would start operations within two weeks. Narayan refused to speak on the matter during a visit by Stabroek News to the Indian company’s Wineperu concession on the Essequibo River. He demanded that no pictures be taken and said that visits to the facility site were prohibited.

During a visit to the concession in August, Stabroek News had observed that the company had cleared land to set up the facility but no construction had begun. It was observed that grading and filling was also done but was incomplete. No work was being done and there was no machinery at the site. This was despite Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud saying in January last year that Vaitarna was in an “advanced” stage of setting up the promised wood processing facility.

Subsequently, the company in response to the Stabroek News report, said that it “tentatively” expected that the sawmill will be “near completion” by the end of last year.

Narayan last month said that the company will sell lumber to both local and export markets depending on demand prices. According to the company official, two sawing machines from Woodmizer and a resaw machine to further scale up added value production are expected to reach Guyana in the third quarter of 2015 and are expected to be operational by late 2015 or early 2016.

Exports of logs rather than processing the timber locally has long been a concern since numerous promises have been made by the government and foreign investors about value-added operations. The promise of value-added has been seen as sugar coating to enable the export of large quantities of logs, particularly to China and India, even though there is little job creation here or value enhancement. Foreign companies including Vaitarna and China’s Baishanlin have been exporting logs on a large scale even though Persaud and other officials have said that logging companies are encouraged to process wood here.

Vaitarna had acquired its concessions in 2010. According to Narayan, the company currently has 106 employees working and more than 90% are Guyanese.

The Vaitarna deal had not been known locally until an article surfaced in the Times of India in 2011.

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