Gov’t extends ban on Rosewood export indefinitely

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, on Friday directed that the ban on Rosewood harvesting, transportation, processing and export announced in March 2019, should remain in force indefinitely.

He asked the Forestry Directorate of the Ministry to liaise with the Forestry Commission to develop modalities for enhancing the monitoring mechanisms within various hotspot Rosewood districts to eradicate its illegal harvesting.

He charged the various metropolitan, municipal and district assembles to collaborate with other relevant state agencies to ensure that Rosewood is not transported through any routes from the districts

The decision comes after government carefully scrutinised and studied the report and recommendations of a seven-member committee established in August last year, to investigate alleged corruption in rosewood trade.

Government, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources,  in August 2019 set up a seven-member Committee chaired by Mr. Benito Owusu-Bio, a Deputy Minister, to investigate alleged corruption and illegal trade of rosewood despite the ban placed on it in March that year.

The move follows publication of an investigative report by the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) in July 2019, alleging corruption by top government officials in export of the wood to China.

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Addressing a news conference in Accra, Mr. Asomah-Cheremeh said in the interim all stockpiles of rosewood lying in the various sawmills and hotspots across the country should be evacuated to a central location and auctioned for value-added processing.

To enhance the general outlook of its trade, he said, attention should be placed on freight forwarding companies which falsify documentation to cover wood export – especially illegal Rosewood to Vietnam, adding that these companies should be named and shamed.

In the long-term, the Sector Minister tasked the Forestry Commission to conduct a comprehensive inventory of Rosewood resources to establish its sustainable exploitation levels and promote plantation development.

“A recent publication shows that China has banned illegal timber import from Ghana. This policy initiative is, indeed, good for Ghana’s Rosewood export trade and our efforts toward the issuance of FLEGT licence under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement,” Mr. Asomah-Charemeh said.

The Sector Minister urged interested parties, including the local and international media, to focus attention on countries like China and Vietnam which import illegal timber from Ghana.

The Committee was given five weeks to work and present its recommendations to the Sector Minister, but extended the deadline due to the investigation’s extensive nature.

It eventually worked for eight weeks and presented the final report on December 23, 2019.

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It has representatives from the Parliamentary Select Committee on Forestry, Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Civil Society Organisations, Forestry Commission and Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration as well as some representatives from the security agencies.

The Committee was unable to prove the allegations of corruption made by the EIA against government officials accused of colluding with Rosewood exporters to short-change the state.

The video footages and other materials provided by the EIA did not provide enough evidence to back its corruption claims.

Again, the actual Rosewood exported between 2012 and 2019 was 489,766 trees and not six million trees as EIA alleged in its publication.

The Committee uncovered that a number of permits issued for Rosewood were diverted to Vietnam, and the volumes approved on the permits were altered.

Its collaboration with the Vietnamese Customs revealed that some Ghanaian freight forwarding companies produced fictitious documents at the blindside of the Customs Division of the GRA.

It therefore recommended a forensic audit to be conducted on some selected companies who engaged in that fraudulent export trade, so as to bring them to book.

GNA

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