Gov’t, private sector seeking to lift restriction on greenheart exports to UK

A decision by the United Kingdom last year to restrict greenheart purchases from Guyana has had a negative impact and government and the private sector are working together to gain re-entry to that market.

Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin and Minister of Natural Resources Rafael Trotman yesterday met with members of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and other stakeholders to discuss the way forward and they emphasised that the government would be working along with them to find a solution to the problem. It is seen as significant particularly as greenheart has comprised 90% of the lumber exports to the UK since 2011.

Chairperson of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s Forestry and Wood Sector Sub-Committee Mohindra Chand said noted that in May 2015, a technical note released by the UK to contractors for government-funded projects, among others, stated that “they will apply the timber agreement policy rigorously and they will only buy timber from legal and sustainable sources, which currently prohibits purchase of new greenheart from Guyana.”

Chand explained the impact on the local forest sector since the technical note was released. “After recovering from the economic downturn in 2008, there was some development and in 2012 we started to penetrate the UK market and was about to take off,” he said, while pointing out that from 2012 to 2014 exports to the UK had increased. Since the technical note was released to August this year, he said, the figures are similar to they were when local exporters first penetrated the market.

In 2014, the exports had earned US$3,245,338 compared to the 2015 figure of US$ 1,143,706.

Chand pointed out that the technical note has had ripple effects and has affected the industry in many ways such as the introduction of a non-tariff barrier, tarnishing Guy-ana’s sustainable forest management efforts, negatively impacting the level of local and foreign investments in Guyana, directly impacting negatively on value-adding, and directly impacting on the loss of jobs and businesses.

He added that the employment of thousands of indigenous citizens are affected and there is a large loss in foreign exchange. Rural livelihood and development are stymied due to the lost opportunities, he also said, while adding that local stakeholders are concerned that no consultations were done on the status of the sustainability of the forest.

“Any problem that affects the local industries does concern our government and greenheart is more than a local industry, it’s part of our Guyanese identity and this particular problem is having a harmful effect on the greenheart producers,” Gaskin said, while pointing out that the government fully supports the private sector’s position and will be working closely to address the issue.

“The technical note is prejudicial to the well-being of greenheart and if Guyana is the only place where greenheart is found in commercial quantities, then certainly it is prejudicial to Guyana itself,” he added.

Trotman reiterated Gaskin’s sentiments and emphasised that they are in solidarity with the private sector and will link their hands in addressing the root of the problem. Trotman also emphasised Guyana’s verification system has been tested and proven.

While currently the UK has not been contacted, the government and PSC will be working towards establishing contact soon to address the problem.

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