Barama Company Ltd is currently reviewing a draft contract proposed by the government to continue its operations here.
The company’s current contract is due to expire on October 15.
General Manager of the company Mohindra Chand yesterday confirmed to Stabroek News that the company had received the agreement from the government sometime last week and was reviewing it.
The company is expected to complete its review in the coming week and finalise the agreement to renew the contract.
From all indications, a source from the Ministry of Natural Resources related, the contract should be renewed.
The company had reported that 180 workers had been retrenched over a three-month period and Chand had said Barama was forced to let the workers go because of the market slowdown and the fact that government was not moving with alacrity towards renewing the company’s contract.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has said that in 2015, at the request of Barama for a continuation of its contract, Cabinet gave its ‘no objection’ to the continuing of the arrangement but recommended the convening of a Task Force to examine the request. This Task Force was seen as necessary given the “rapacious activities” of some foreign companies operating in the forests of Guyana, and “some not so positive observations that had been expressed about Barama in particular,” the ministry had said in a statement.
The Task Force comprises representatives of the ministries of Business, Natural Resources, Public Infrastructure and Indigenous People’s Affairs, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Guyana Forestry Com-mission and a legal consultant.
The statement said that the Task Force met on several occasions and visited Barama’s operations at Buck Hall, Essequibo, following which the legal consultant began reviewing the existing contract, forest concessions, and tax incentives previously granted to the company, while other members evaluated workers’ rights, value-added operations and environmental management practices, among other things. It added that it is the Task Force’s intention to have the final proposal for Cabinet’s review and approval before September 30th, 2016.
Barama has control over 1,611,195 hectares (3,981,349 acres) of state forest in the north west of Guyana and when it entered the market here in 1991 was meant to be predominantly engaged in value-adding via plywood. However, for a number of years plywood has been on the downswing and the company has been engaged in the exportation of a significant amount of logs.
This has raised queries about the ongoing arrangement, particularly as the end of the 25-year contract approaches.