Waive taxes on imported lumber to save the local wood industry—Lumber association

The Domestic Lumber Trade Association (DOLTA) has expressed worry over the poor quality of local timber resulting from over-exploitation of the country’s forests and is hereby calling on government to waive taxes on imported woods to save the situation.

The association said this has led to a point where over 90 percent of wood produced domestically is sub-standard; hence, imminent action must be taken or the industry will collapse.

“We are over-exploiting our forests, and our forests have gone down considerably; we need to look elsewhere, so we can reduce the pressure on our forest.

“We want government to waive tax on the importation of lumber alone, so that we can import lumber and use it for our furnishing and housing works. If we import wood into the country and also pay tax on it, it will be too expensive,” Director of Communication of the association, Anthony Partey Asare, told B&FT in an interview.

Mr. Partey further commented on the situation’s seriousness, highlighting dangers it poses to the country’s housing sector.

“We don’t have quality woods on our market as we used to have. If you come to our market, the woods are all sub-standard and they are called ‘lesser-known species’. However, about 90 percent of them are being used to roof houses and I am afraid for our housing sector.

“We have to think about the future of our housing sector. In the next 10 years, roofs of more houses will fade out. So, we are pleading with government to waive the tax – if not completely, for a short period while we organise our forests for future exploitation,” he said.

Wood-workers in the country have constantly expressed worry over challenges the local industry is going through. Last year, the Timber Markets Association called on government to ban exportation of timber and timber-related products in order to end shortages of the commodity.

“There is no need to continue exporting timber when there is increasing demand on the local market. The future of the timber industry is very bleak for local actors whose activities revolve around the processing logs and lumber to feed big infrastructural enhancement projects and for domestic use,” Isaac Avor, Secretary to the Timber Markets Association, told the B&FT.

According to Mr. Avor, there is a need for government to consider halting exports of timber so as to retain the “little timber in the system” for the local market.

He added: “The killing of forest resources has led to the low supply of timber for processing, and that could stifle productivity in the sector and lead to job-losses”.

Unfair treatment

DOLTA is again calling on government to investigate and put an end to what it calls “fraud” by the Forestry Commission.

“When you go to the bush and buy your timber and pay for it, and after documentation is done by the Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of the Forestry Commission, on returning to Accra you are stopped and asked to present your documents.

“After presenting them, they claim the total number of documented timber does not tally with the timber in the truck. So, you are slapped with a fine of between GH₵8,000 to GH₵150,000.

“So, we see it as fraud by the Forestry Commission and we have presented a petition to President Akufo-Addo and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, but have not yet heard any response,” he said.