Investors shy from plantation development business

Prospective foreign investors do not desire to venture into plantation development business, be it rubber, timber species among others because they see it as a long term investment with security risks such as global climate change.

Mr. Raphael Yeboah, Executive Director of the Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission disclosed this at an end-of-year interaction with the media in Accra.

Mr. Yeboah said the current spate of encroachment by illegal miners (galamseyers) and chainsaw operators whose activities continue to pose a major challenge to the Forestry Commission.

Mr. Yeboah said forest management globally has become capital intensive and with the low capital base of the Commission, it will be difficult to deal with the situation.

He said the strategy the Commission has adopted now in forest plantation development in the country is to engage the private sector of four big local commercial companies who are currently planting trees in designated areas and also the public through the previous administration initiative and the current National Plantation Development programme in ECOTEC and Zoomlion to develop 200,000 ha a year but as a result of lack of funds, the maximum they did was 100,000 ha a year.

Mr. Yeboah said in 2013, the project came to a halt due to depleted funds. Forestry Commission therefore deemed it economically prudent to withdraw ECOTEC and Zoomlion and took sole responsibility for the development of the project and was able to establish 300,000 ha.

He regretted that since 2013 FC has not received any fund from the government to even maintain the 300,000 ha.

He said because of the current expensive nature of plantation development, from 2002 until now FC has been able to establish 140,000 ha of plantations in the country with other local commercial developers doing about 20,000 ha.

He cautioned that with the prevailing global technological trends in timber processing, operators need to reposition themselves in terms of retooling to be able to process current tree species.

He said under the Ghana – Netherland project, funds are being made available to the commission to protect the sources of three major rivers in the Atiwa forest in Eastern Region. The rivers are: Densu, Birim and Ayensu.

The funds will also help equip the commission’s Rapid Response Team to counteract the activities of galamaseyers and chainsaw operators in the area.

The Forestry Commission (FC) now has a responsibility to restore about 400,000 hectares of degraded forest reserves across the country.

Mr. Alex A. Boadu, Director of Operations of FSD gave a summary report of the National Monitoring Operation of confiscated timber product.

He explained that in 2012, 24,282.70 cubic metres with a revenue of GH¢2,628,096.64 and in 2013, 18,516.13cubic metres with a value of GH¢1,812,838.28 was realized whilst in 2014, 26,576.45 cubic metres was seized and disposed off at GH¢4,574,842.43 and from January – August 2015, 19,342.05 cubic metres with a revenue of GH¢2,778,645.75 was realized, this figure represents just 1% of the annual allowable cut.

Mr. Boadu said with Ghana as a signatory to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the focus now is to eliminate all illegal activities in the timber trade especially to the European Union.