Serwaa Asamoah disclosed this at the 5th edition of National Forest Forum-Ghana (NFF-G) in Dodowa yesterday.
She said timber products on the domestic market were not adequate.
The forum, which was attended by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), policymakers and traditional leaders from the 10 regions under the theme: ‘Deepening Ghana’s Country Dialogue-Contribution to sustainable forest management,’ was organized by NFF-G to grant stakeholders the platform to dialogue on ways of sustaining Ghana’s natural resources.
There is high demand for timber products in the country but the current timber production capacity is extremely low and if the government fails to bring in additional supply, illegal chainsaw activities could increase tremendously, according to the Deputy Minister.
She continued: “The trees we have in our forest are just small. Most of the mahogany and other tree species are gradually finishing.”
“If we do not feed employers within the industry they will lay off their employees.”
According to her, government was currently holding talks with countries like Cameroon and Guyana to see how best they could reduce taxes on timbers that might be imported from those countries.
“We are also negotiating with the Ministry of Finance for the go-ahead to start the importation.”
Ms. Serwaa Asamoah said that government had adopted the implementation of Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
With the introduction of the public procurement policy, she said only legally acquired timber will now be used for all government projects.
According to her, “Government is the lead developer in the timber industry and if it acquires all its timber from legal source, it will go a long way to halt illegal lumbering and help the local timber industry.”
Speaking in an interview with BUSINESS GUIDE on the sidelines of the forum, she noted that the VPA will go a long way to halt the smuggling of timber from Ghana to its neighboring countries such as Togo and Burkina Faso.
The VPA is another very important policy that is going to check that; there is no illegal timber on the market, she said.
The Director of Nature and Development Foundation, in a remark, stated that the forum was aimed at improving transparency and integrity in the country.
He urged government to collaborate with CSOs to find lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the forestry and environment sectors.
A representative of the European Commission, (EC) Christopher Ackon, in a speech, disclosed that the EC has contributed immensely to the development of the nation’s natural resources.
According to him, the EU is the largest donor to the forest sector and provides assistance through both countries and regional programmes.
He disclosed that the Government of Ghana and the EU signed the world’s first “Voluntary Partnership Agreement, popularly known as VPA in November 2009.”
He said, “In addition to ensuring legal export of timber products from Ghana to the EU, the trade agreement aims to contribute to governance reforms in the forestry sector.”
BY Melvin Tarlue