Timber export collapsing woodwork industry

A section of the Sokoban Wood Village, in Kumasi

Some players in the local wood industry have called on the government to review the volume of timber export to save the ailing local wood industry, at the back of the lack of access by domestic lumber traders to legally sourced timber.

This development, according to traders at the Sokoban Wood Village, in Kumasi, has put many lumber and woodworkers out of business, while the price of legally sourced timber continues to rise due to increases in demand resulting from its market scarcity.

The Coordinator of the Sokoban Wood Village, in Kumasi, Mr. Abubakar Halifa, noted that hitherto many traders sourced their lumber from chainsaw operators, which was illegal.

However, he said through education and continuous engagement, the domestic lumber market has now come to appreciate the need to patronize legally sourced timber but the lack of capacity to supply the local market has become a major disincentive.

For instance, the Wood Village which hitherto boasted a labour force of about five thousand in the lumber section, in a day – made up of lumber sellers, ‘loading boys’ and other ancillary services – now records around about two thousand five labour force.

Mr. Halifa also noted that the collapse of the sawmilling business in many parts of the Ashanti Region is partly to blame since the few existing wood-mizers and sawmillers are unable to meet the demand of the local market.

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It is against this backdrop that the Coordinator of the Sokoban Wood Village is appealing to the government to grant more concessions to local loggers and sawmillers so that they will be able to meet the demand of the local market.

He further stated that if the concerns over declining forest cover of the country are anything to go by, then the government should – as part of efforts to revamp the forest as well as the local lumber industry – reduce timber export to other countries.

“To completely eliminate chainsaw activities, the government should help to make timber available to the local market than to export all for the country to later import them for local use.”

According to a report on the export of timber and wood products from the Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of Ghana Forestry Commission, between January 2017 to May 2018 alone, the volume of timber exported reached over 261,251.716 m³. This also amounted to €148,969,955.38. Ghana secured €86,317,646.41 from the export of 144,300.079 m³ in January – May 2018.

Comparatively, in the previous year for the same period, an amount of €62,652,308.97 was obtained from the export of 116,951.637m³ depicting increases of 37.77% in value and 23.38% in volume respectively.

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A wood seller and executive member of the Sokoban Wood Village, Mr. Mohammed Kamil Ishaaq, also expressed concern over the readiness of the local timber and wood industry as Ghana nears the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

He further reiterated that despite the commitment to patronize legally source timber its market scarcity threatens the sustainability of businesses.  He, therefore, also appealed to the government to assist the Domestic Lumber Millers Association of Ghana (DoLMAG) to be in the position to supply legally sourced timber to the local market.

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