The importance of value-added timber exports was highlighted yesterday afternoon by Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin as the Guyana Timber Expo 2018 opened.
A crowd of patrons ignored the bad weather and gathered yesterday afternoon at the Providence National Stadium’s tarmac, where the expo was officially opened by Gaskin, who, along with other speakers, stressed the need for increased value-added timber exports.
Giving the feature address in the stead of Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, Gaskin noted that his Ministry fully supports the event and its objectives.
“This event is necessary and timely because I believe that somewhere along the line we seemed to have lost our focus as a people and country and have become the dumping ground for the world’s excess of cheap, low grade products and a lot of things that a few decades ago we could not have imagined we would be importing, we are,” Gaskin said, while explaining that it has been happening because the country has not developed its local resources in a way that would fully exploit the various value chains that are associated with the resource.
Gaskin said that while he does not know a lot about the forest sector as compared to the major players in the industry who are displaying their products, he does understand the concept of value-added industries and its impact on the country’s economy.
“…And I do understand the difference between exporting logs and sawn wood, and exporting value-added wood products and I know that we are adding very little value to our timbers before it leaves our shores… I know for sure that we can earn a lot more if we were to export a greater proportion of that wood in value-added products,” Gaskin noted, while stating that his Ministry and the Government, by extension, recognise the importance of adding value to the local raw materials and also understands the dangers of not doing so.
Gaskin also stressed that he believes the country’s forests contain a value that “we do not yet fully understand” and there are many sustainable and non-destructive means that can be used to exploit it.
Speaking from his experience in the jewellery industry, Gaskin explained that there are three main components of value-added manufacturing: the supply chain, production and marketing. He explained that the production and marketing aspects of the industry are mainly a function of money, technology, expertise, training and good management practice, while the manufacturing side of the sector is heavily dependent on the availability of the products, cost of production and the quality of the raw materials, which persons would usually have little control over as they would have to rely on external systems.
The Minister of Business said from how the current systems are set up, it is now designed to promote value-added activity, since persons are usually at a grave disadvantage when they have to compete with other value-added timber producing countries, such as China, Canada and Germany.
Gaskin added that he thinks all of the issues that are currently being faced by the value-added sector of the forestry industry will be addressed by the three-day expo.
“Our government is committed to the development of the forestry sector and demonstrates this by engaging the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GM&SA) and the Forest Producers Association (FPA) in jointly coming up with measures to bolster the sector,” Gaskin added.
Chair of the Guyana Forestry Commission Board Jocelyn Dow also made similar remarks and stressed the importance of highlighting the various uses of timber.
“As a Commission we have to make sure that we add value to everything here. It’s not possible to add value to everything but we would like to reduce, very importantly, the export of logs [as compared] to the export of finished materials, even if they are just sawn and squared,” Dow said.
She also noted that the various usages of trees, leaves, bark and other parts in medicine should also be highlighted because as value is added to products, households are improved, along with their income.
Head of the GM&SA Shyam Nokta and head of the FPA Deonarine Ramsaroop also made brief contributions. Nokta echoed Gaskin’s sentiments and related that there is a need for the high cost of production for the sector to be decreased.
Nokta also praised the government for the strides that they have made together in reversing some of the decisions, including the removal of the imposition of VAT on forest products and others.
Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Ruben Robertson and European Union Representative Federico Suarez were also present at the opening ceremony and made brief remarks.
The expo will continue today and tomorrow, running from 10 am to 10 pm.