Despite several delays in the processes to conclude work on the regime to guide the sourcing of legal timber for the consumption of the local wood industry and the export market, it has emerged that plans are now far advanced to commence and test the FLEGT licensing regime this year.
The rollout of the system is expected to subsequently pave way for the issuance of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license, which among others seek to combat illegal trade in forest and timber product with the aim of reducing forest degradation.
The implementation and issuance of the FLEGT license will guarantee the legality of timber and other timber products exported to Europe and other international markets from Ghana.
This follows several years of deliberations from as far back as 2009 when Ghana reached an agreement with the European Union (EU) to sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which mandated that only legally produced timber should be exported to the EU market. The agreement also included the supply of legal lumber to the local market which is made up of about 84% illegal chainsaw timber.
The Vice President of the Ghana Timber Association (GTA) and the representative on the Joint-Monitoring Reviewing Mechanism, between EU and Ghana, Mr. Alexander Dadzie, who disclosed the new timelines to B&FT, also explained that the delay occurred due to the meticulous processes that had to be undertaken leading to the commencement of the FLEGT programme.
He said the Ghana Partners have completed and fulfilled all the necessary requirement that governs the FLEGT regime, which now makes it appropriate to commence the implementation of the programme.
Commenting on the readiness of the timber and wood industry for the FLEGT programme, he insisted that the industry is well equipped with all the essential information to get them in align with the programme.
These came up at the backdrop of a workshop organized for a cross section of timber exporters on how the whole process of certification will proceed and the requirements. The ongoing sensitization, under the FAO FLEGT programme, is hoped to equip industry to be able to comply when the programme begins.
The Permit Manager of the Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission, in Kumasi, Mr. Eric Abbeyquaye, said the signing of the VPA demonstrates Ghana’s commitment towards ensuring legal timber export trade.
But he noted that the Electronic Tracking System, a crucial component of the FLEGT licensing regime, was a major cause of the delay of the start of the programme. However, he indicated that the first trial FLEGT license has been issued and a formal report from authorities is expected as part of the processes to fully roll it out.
Mr. Abbeyquaye also mentioned that the start of the FLEGT programme will give the country the competitive urge over other countries who export timber to the EU markets. This, he said, is due to the fact buyers will have the confidence that the timber coming from the country is sourced legally whilst also observing health, environmental and other safety regulations.
He was emphatic that the start of the FLEGT licensing regime will put an end to illegal lumber particularly within the domestic market, which has been a challenge to address.
Also speaking with the Chief Executive of the Ghana Timber and Millers Organisation (GTMO), Dr. Kwame Asamoah Adams, he expressed concern about the additional cost and resources that will be required of companies to be able to fully comply with the system when it starts.
Bearing in mind some of the few bottlenecks anticipated to challenge particularly the small-scale timber operators at the start of the FLEGT licensing regime, he disclosed that efforts are being made to setup a Secretariat to assist them in their application for the license.
Dr. Asamoah Adams said the potential to revive the timber industry is not far-fetched given that Ghana has the land and climate that supports tree growth far better than some of the Scandinavian countries that are leading in the global timber and wood industry.
However, he said conscious attempt must be made to reinvigorate the industry like planting more trees and also restructure the industry to do more processing by way of value addition than just selling.