Some foresters, and lumber dealers have expressed frustration over impediments being put on their way by officials of the Forestry Commission, the Police and other law enforcement agencies when conveying lumber from their Plantations and sawmills to the markets.
They complain of being constantly harassed and their truck loads of certified lumber impounded by these officials during transit to various domestic markets and for exports.
But the Forestry Commission in its response to their complaints said it is only doing its work to ensure that logs and lumber that are coming from illegal sources and without the appropriate documents during transit are accosted.
The Commission said the strict tracking measures are part of the execution of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement that Ghana signed with the European Union.
Mr Abdulai Omaru Sulley, Director of Vision 2050 Forests while expressing his frustration to the media recently noted that the posture of the forestry officials could drive away potential private investors to the forestry industry.
Mr Sulley, spoke to the media on behalf of plantation owners and wood dealers argued that such huddles continue to draw the foresters back and discourages them from bringing in financiers to invest in the sector.
Recently, he stated, “It took us two days to transfer logs from Peki to our sawmill at Nsawam and from one of our plantations in Kajebi, it took the trucks two weeks to get to the sawmill. Now, if this is the situation in our country, which private investor especially a foreign one, will want to put his money in such an industry,” he quizzed.
His anger followed the seizure of his truck load of lumber by officials of the Forestry Commission at their Nsawam post with the reason that he did not acquire the Domestic Lumber Inspection Certificate which permits him to ply the road from source to the Market. Harassed complaints outraged
Mr Sulley pointed out that if you look at the situation critically, people who are harvesting from the natural forests could transfer their logs without any problem, while those of them doing it legally are rather suffering.
“Why is it that those of us who do it legally will not be allowed to process our logs and sell them? Why must there be so many impediments. Seventeen check points, customs, forestry, and Police officers from Peki to Nsawam. This must stop,” he said.
He called on all stakeholders and the government in particular to speak up to protect our reserves and to protect our natural resources.
He threatened that his company would have no option but to go to court to seek redress if this continues.
Responding to the issues in an interview with Public Agenda, The Executive Director of the Timber Industry Development Division at the Forestry Commission, Dr Ben. N. Donkor stated that Ghana has signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union to the effect that “we shall not allow illegally sourced wood to get to both export and domestic market. Since 2008, we have been educating all the stakeholders in the timber industry those who are dealing within and outside the country.”
According to Dr Donkor, those complaining cannot pretend not to be aware of these processes as the Commission had had several engagement with them.
He emphasized, “We have had meetings with them both in discussions and training so they cannot claim to be unaware. They are very much aware of all the process we are going through and what we are doing.
He said most of the people who are making the noise are those who do not have the appropriate documents and want to bulldoze their way through the system, insisting that the Forestry Commission would not allow that to happen.
Dr Donkor maintained that no official of the forestry commission would put a huddle in a wood dealer’s way when they have the appropriate document accompanying their materials.
Regarding the documentation, he explained that with the natural forest, it is covered by Log Measurement and Conveyance Certificate (LMCC).
The LMCC, he further explained, “will tell us where you harvested it from, which specific forest your harvesting it, when you harvested it, who has the permit.an if you bought it from a permit holder, the permit holder will be there and you conveying it, your vehicle number is there as well. So that paper alone will tell all about you.”
So if you have a proper LMCC accompanying your products, you don’t have a problem.
“The LMCC is for logs. If you are taking to the sawmill, the TIDD will come and issue with Lumber Inspection Certificate for export. If it is for domestic, they will issue Domestic Timber Inspection Certificate. All these certificate will link to the LMCC.So there is a tracking system that will tell where you sourced the wood from, which sawmill processed it and then which market it is going to.
He urged all especially the wood dealers to comply with the law and do the right thing so as to prevent the said harassment from the forestry officials.
By Mohammed Suleman