GMSA engages Natural Resources Minister on forestry sector development

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat (second) with GMSA President Rafeek Khan and other officials

See below statement from the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA): 

President of the GMSA, Rafeek Khan; Chairman of Extractive Industries, Denish Bisessar;
Board Member, Mohindra Chand and Executive Director, Nizam Hassan met with the Hon. Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat. This meeting was set out to discuss key challenges and opportunities within the forestry and wood products sector.

In the discussion, the GMSA expressed appreciation to the Ministry of Natural Resources for the recent support towards AgroFest in Barbados. The contribution by the Ministry ensured representation of Guyanese products and businesses in Barbados and to further cement the success of the St. Barnabas Accord which seeks to create one domestic space between both countries. Wood products and housing are two elements of the accord which
trade in these areas will be boosted.

During the meeting, the many constraints regarding the supply and demand of raw materials to wood-based manufacturers to support the growing construction sector was highlighted. Areas regarding the boosting of production in the forestry sector was expounded on by Minister Bharrat who reiterated the Government’s unwavering commitment to ensuring greater production within the sector. One of the main challenges to increasing production has been limited access to the forest due to poor road conditions over the past year. The road situation has worsened due to heavy rainfall which we are presently facing. This will be provisioned through the upgrading and implementation of new roads and bridges to benefit concessioners.

The Minister revealed that Government will be collaborating with stakeholders to upgrade the Puruni road and are also in discussions to build a bridge across the Puruni River which will facilitate greater access on a 24-hour basis. Several large-scale forest concessionaires were unable to extract timber in areas such as Puruni where there are vast resources and under-producing for over a decade. It was also noted by the Minister that there would be
no tolls at the bridge since the company will assist the government with the provisioning of the infrastructure then the state will maintain after its completion. Such measures will ensure all infrastructural needs are in place to push towards meeting the local demand and satisfying the export needs.

Minister Bharrat further discussed plans which will commence soon on acquiring approximately 30 acres of land on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway to initiate the first model of a Consolidated Log Yard to benefit the forestry sector especially since the emergence of the many challenges linked to climate change such as adverse weather patterns and to further benefit small loggers in their marketing process. Small loggers would have a facility to store their timber products at a central location for easy access to buyers.

In an effort to cushion the effects of short supplies of raw materials and the growing demand of timber, the GMSA recommended measures be in place to encourage large scale producers to make their logs more available for local consumption. However, due to the overall challenges beyond control for many operators, it was agreed that we access the situation in the next six months which should be sufficient time for production to increase.

Meanwhile, Minister Bharrat has been consistently meeting with all stakeholders including sawmill operators to discuss measures for improvement in the sector. Presently, forest production is less than one-third of its allowable cut which is approximately only 1% of our total forest.

It is also important to note that the GMSA recognized the gap in the skillset of semi-skilled and skilled workers in the extractive sector and notes how it can assist in provisioning support for same. Upon discussion with the subject minister, specific skills training will be provisioned as a joint initiative between the GMSA and MNR to benefit young people across the country and fill the gaps at present. GMSA has endorsed and will work to ensure this idea becomes reality. The Forestry sector will benefit tremendously from this initiative for the enhancement of skills within the sector.

The GMSA continues to seek meaningful engagement with the Government to benefit businesses and help meet the growing consumer demands.