Singh queries Teak exports
By CECILY ASSON Saturday, August 4 2012
The continuing sale of Teak by local sawmillers to foreign markets is now engaging the attention of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Forestry Division, according to the line Minister Ganga Singh.
As a result, consultation will soon begin with government officials to regulate the flow of the raw material out of the country.
Singh was speaking yesterday during the function held to distribute contracts for pine and teak to sawmillers, and also to officially open the new Morne Diablo Plantation Office at Quarry Road, Morne Diablo.
Singh said, “It has been brought to my attention that many saw-millers who benefit from the subsidised sale of Teak in particular, re-sell the unprocessed, or semi-processed material, directly to foreign markets. This practice, while not illegal, runs counter to the purpose of the State selling you the timber in the first place.”
According to Singh, the subsidised sale of timber to sawmillers, is to create value-added products, generate employment, reduce poverty in rural communities, and manufacture high quality products at a lower cost to the local consumer.
Singh explained, “In the process of re-selling such raw material to foreign markets, you deprive the country of these types of benefits, and value-added products. My ministry takes a dim view of such practices, and will be consulting with other Government officials to regulate the flow of such raw material out of the country in the near future”
Speaking to reporters after explaining that “forestry is sacred to the environment.”
Singh added, “It is a key and vital component, and when we provide sawmillers with the necessary licence to fell the timber, it is meant to add economic value, and create sustainable economic environment for Trinidad and Tobago, and we have the capacity to do so.”
There is a significant foreign component where people just do the minimal locally added-value and just send it to the international market,” noted Singh.
“We are trying moral suasion first; we are creating a criteria for best practices in the environment, and what they do with it, and if that fails, then we are going into the realm of legislation.”
The Forestry Division of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has been entrusted with the responsibility for the managing the forest resources of Trinidad, which includes the sale of State-owned Teak and Pine.
The forest estate includes approximately 10,000 hectares of Teak and 4,500 hectares of Caribbean pine. These plantations, through the operations of clear felling and thinning, produce timber which is utilised by the local sawmilling industry and other downstream industries
President of the Sawmillers Co-operative Society Limited, Keith Mahabir, was in full support of the minister. “What is happening by the export of Teak, is that they are killing the furniture industry,” Mahabir explained to Newsday.
“Prime material is being exported. They are exporting the cream of the crop outside in squares, and it creates an artificial shortage of good quality teak lumber.”
Mahabir said in past, he had spoken to previous administrations about the illegal activities within the industry.
He continued, “I can also tell them that logs are being scoured with power saws in many instances within the teak coupe (where trees are planted) and loaded into containers in the coupe. The laws say you cannot convert logs into lumber using a power saw. What the guys do is that they use the power-saw and skim off two ends, then put it in containers, and call it processed.”
He believes the time has come for government to stop granting permission for the export of Teak.
Also addressing the audience yesterday were minister in the ministry Ramona Ramdial; Ag Permanent Secretary, Antony Ramnarine; Ag Conservator of Forests Johnny Seepersad, and Councillor Hyacinth Rampersadsingh.