Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Benita Owusu Bio, has assured that, government is working to ensure the sustainability of the country’s forest cover and has put in place measures to achieve its target.

Some of the measures he mentioned include the Green Ghana project, whose launch saw the planting of about five million trees to shore up the country’s depleting forest cover, adding that, the exercise would be scaled up to ensure that the country planted about 100 million trees by 2024.

The Deputy Minister made this known when the Forest Industries Association of Ghana (FIAG), an umbrella body to champion the course of players in the timber and wood related business in the country was formally lunched in Accra.

According to him, ensuring the sustainability of the country’s forest cover would help the players in the timber trade industry to continue to be in business.

He said, as a private sector of forestry, the growth of their business depends directly on the availability and supply of raw materials.

“The Government recognises the significant contribution of the wood industry and the potential of the sector to expand and generate additional revenue and employment, provided that the raw material supply base can be guaranteed and sustained.”

He said the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources through the Forest Investment Programme (FIP), had secured a seven-million-dollar loan facility at a concessionary rate to stimulate private sector investment in small to medium scale commercial forest plantations.

The facility he said, would be disbursed as part of measures to cushion the timber trade sector, hence encouraging the players in the sector to apply for the facility when it is advertised.

He also assured members of FIAG the preparedness by government to work closely with them to boost the timber industry to create jobs for the youth.

The bottleneck

Chairman of FIAG, Mr Richard Nsenkyire, called on the government to create the enabling environment for forestry industry to thrive in the country.

He expressed concern about the difficulties industry players are going through in moving their cargo to and from the sea-ports since the Western rail lines collapsed.

“The total collapse of the western rail line has had a tremendous negative impact on the timber and wood product businesses,” he noted, adding “Movement of the annual 500,000 cubic meter of wood products exports have for over nearly three decades been by road, making delivery to the port slow and very expensive.”

He noted that, over-regulation of the forestry industry is negatively impacting the business of players in the timber industry.

“Along the forest product supply chain, there is over-regulation of the business processes leading to bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption, resulting in loss of revenue to state and high cost of doing business, he explained.

He therefore called for the decentralising of the regulatory bodies responsible for issuing permits.

Mr Nsenkyire also called on the government to review some of the forest and timber laws, particularly law on stumpage calculation, competitive bidding, and business operation registration “that are inimical to the growth of the industries.”

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of FIAG, Dr Kwame Asamoah Adam, explained that, the Association would serve as a unified voice for players in the timber trade business in the country.

He said, members of the Association would help promote afforestation programe in the country, adding that, the association, among others, had been formed to members operate responsibly by conducting business in accordance with modern best practices that also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He also assured that, members of FIAG would collaborate with government to ensure the successful implementation of the FLEGT license which is being pushed by the European Commission.

About FIAG

FIAG, which is made up of 10 timber trade associations that have operated independently over several decades in the past, seeks to strengthen the private forestry sector to respond appropriately to current challenges of climate change, sustainability of forestry resources and trends in global trade.

The association has Ghana Timber Millers Organisation (GTMO); Ghana Timber Association (GTA); Furniture and Wood Products Association of Ghana (FAWAG); Wood Workers Association of Ghana (WAG); Ghana Sawn Timber Sellers Association (GSTSA); Domestic Lumber Traders Association (DOLTA); Domestic Lumber Manufacturers Association of Ghana (DOLMAG); National Association of Handicraft Exporters (NAHE); Kumasi Wood Cluster (KWC); and Ghana Canoe Carvers Association (GCCA) as its membership.

The launch was on the theme: “The launch was on the theme: “Sustainability of the forest and forest trade in Ghana in light of global changes”, brought together players, regulators and other key stakeholders under one roof.