Ghana will from next month begin importing timber from Liberia to help deal with what woodworkers say is the shortage of logs in the country.
The Domestic Lumber Traders Association, the mother union of woodworkers in the country says the move is important to save the domestic wood industry from collapse as they are having difficulty getting timber locally to process.
A five-member delegation from the union is currently in Liberia negotiating with players in the timber industry there for the release of thousands of cubic meters of the raw material to be sent to Ghana soon.
From the Timber Market and Ofankor wood trading sites in Accra to the Sokoban Wood village in Kumasi, the woodworkers complain their sheds are empty because of the absence of enough logs for domestic processing.
100 years ago, Ghana had more than 8.2 million hectares of forests from which the woodworkers got their raw materials from but that has been depleted to about 1.6 million now, with no clear plan to replace them.
“The truth of the matter is our forest is gone. There is no more timber in Ghana. By the next ten 15 years, getting timber in Accra will be very difficult. So there is the need to import timber to keep our business going,” Joe Mann who is Greater Accra chairman of the association disclosed to Joy news’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo in an interview.
“We have too many people who are involved in the timber business and so we cannot allow it to die. So, there is the need for us to import timber to keep our work going. We have our team members on the ground. They are negotiating with Liberian timber producers to bring in timber from there,” Joe Mann added.
Ghana has for years prided itself as a major producer and exporter of timber but clearly, the glory days are gone now. Data from the Forestry Commission says about 65,000 hectares of forests are degraded every year and it’s been getting worse over the years.
“The importation will help reduce the pressure on the forests. We have over stretched the forests. When the timber comes in from Liberia, the over stretching will go down,” Joe Mann said. “There is the need for government to look at re-planting but the government is failing. There is the need for the infant plants we have in the bush to grow. Nobody will be chasing the young trees if we are importing enough timber from outside the country,” he added.
Ghana has for many years imported furniture and other such finished products from abroad but the plan to bring in the raw material itself is unprecedented. Previous plans to import timber from countries like Guyana about five years ago failed to see the day of light because the association said they were too expensive.
The Domestic Lumber Traders Association says it has begun negotiating with the government to scrap import taxes on the timber they intend importing to make them affordable for sale in Ghana. “If you pay high duty at the habour, you won’t be able to sell it. It is about time government removed the taxes for our members,” Benjamin Amoako Atta who is Vice President of the association explained.
Commenting on the development, Operations Director of Environmental NGO Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) Glenn Asomaning said it’s about time Ghana considered embarking on afforestation projects to restore the forests and provide raw materials for the wood industry.
“We have so much potential because we have all the land. There are companies that have established plantations and after 25 years, these trees mature. So the question is, why will we wait and get to this stage, we should get more serious about afforestation,” he noted
“We have the opportunity. We say there are no jobs. I think we should take it seriously and establish more plantations. The government can lead the way and maybe provide the necessary incentives for the private sector to do it. It will solve a lot of the problems that we have particularly with youth unemployment,” Mr. Asomaning added.
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