Guyana delegation makes pitch for restoration of greenheart exports to UK

GFC Chairman Jocelyn Dow (right) and others at the meeting. (MNR photo)

The Guyana Government, along with representatives from the forestry sector, have made a “strong case” for the greenheart import restrictions by the United Kingdom (UK) to be lifted, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) says.

According to a press release from the Ministry, a Guyanese delegation comprising the Guyana Forestry Commission’s (GFC) Chairman of the Board, Jocelyn Dow and EU-FLEGT Secretariat Head, Kenny David; along with others  made a case and a combined presentation to Andy Powell of the UK Environment Agency (EA) and Clare Marsden of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for the lifting of the import ban that was placed in early 2015.

The release said that the team’s presentation focused on the accomplishments of the country with respect to the current sustainable forest practices, the key impacts the restrictions have had on the industry and the country as a whole in the past three years along with the current code of practice and maintenance of Guyana’s biodiversity.

The team also used the opportunity and the presentation to seek clarification from the EA and the DEFRA representatives on whether the FLEGT certification, which is slated to be awarded to Guyana within five to six years, will be accepted for Category B timber given that the UK has only been accepting Category A FSC 100% Greenheart from Iwokrama since 2016.

“They also challenged the UK EA’s stance on offering support to the country in getting FSC certification since only this is accepted but is costly. Further, they asked what can be done between now and the time FLEGT certification starts to restore trade between the two countries,” the statement said.

It added that from the presentation, the EA and DEFRA representatives clarified that they did not consider the restrictions a ban. However, they conceded that standards had acted as a barrier to imports, and also said that more needs to be done in terms of awareness. As a result, they have met with some of their suppliers to clarify their position on the issue.

“Overall the UK EA was very impressed by the presentation and noted that the information was very useful in clarifying the negative perception of timber from Guyana’s forests. Guyana will now have to await feedback from the UK EA on moving forward as they consult superiors and make recommendations,” the statement added, while noting that the Guyana delegation is confident that the direct engagement will lead to greater relaxation of the restrictions and also result in increased access to the UK’s market for producers and exporters of greenheart forest producers.

The ban, which was introduced by the EA in UK, contended that proof of sustainable sourcing of the forest product was inadequate and this had resulted in a drastic decline in exports of the product to the UK.

A technical note released by the UK EA to contractors for government-funded projects, among others, stated that it will apply the timber agreement policy rigorously and will only buy timber from legal and sustainable sources, which currently prohibits the purchase of new greenheart from Guyana.

As a result, in 2016, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had indicated that the Government was putting plans in place to have representatives travel to the UK in 2017 to “press our case.” “This is a matter of serious concern. Suffice to say that Cabinet has been apprised and several ministers and ministries have been working assiduously on the matter …greenheart is literally at the heart and soul of Guyana’s timber industry,” Trotman had said.  

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