CSOs Alarmed: Ghana On The Verge Of Losing EU Timber Trade Opportunities
Ghana is on the verge of losing a golden opportunity to issue a Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license that would make timber trade with the European Union easier and mutually beneficial.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the forestry Sector, are appealing to the Forestry Commission (FC), the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) and Parliament to collaboratively ensure that Ghana doesn’t miss the December 2020 deadline to complete processes aimed at anchoring home this milestone as Parliament holds the nation’s fate.
Mr. Obed Owusu- Addai, Managing Campaigner of EcoCare Ghana, speaking at a press conference stated that, failure to finish the process started since 2009 would result in everything going down the drain and Ghana losing its credibility on the international timber market.
“Parliament is expected to convert Timber Extant Leases into Timber Utilization Contracts (TUCs) to complete the process before the December 2020 deadline set by Ghana itself as completion date,” Mr. Addai Owusu reiterated.
He disclosed that the over 100 contract documents had been prepared and forwarded to the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry for signature and onward submission to Parliament for ratification. When this process is completed, it would pave way for Ghana to issue FLGET license under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) Ghana entered into with the EU to ensure only legal wood is traded between the two parties.
The required processes under the agreement are geared towards ensuring that only legal wood is traded between the two parties and that would help conserve Ghana’s forests for posterity.
As the clock ticks to the deadline and Parliament prepares to rise amidst the electioneering season, the COSs fear Ghana risks missing out on this unique opportunity into which resources and efforts have been invested by the various stakeholders including Timber Industries.
In 2007 Ghana began negotiations with the EU on steps to ensure only legal timber is exported to the latter’s member countries, leading to the signing of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).
This set the tone for processes towards the granting of FLEGT license to Ghana, a document that certifies that the country has put in places all the mechanisms for ensuring its exported timber is legal per international standards.
Ghana’s credibility on the international timber market and in the eyes of the European Union in particular is at stake at this crucial time as its seriousness towards forest conservation would be measured by the commitment shown by these statutory bodies - Forestry Commission, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the Parliament of Ghana.
If Ghana beats the deadline, it becomes the second country in the world and the first in Africa to trade in FLEGT licensed timber, thus raising its reputation and creating opportunities for stakeholders and the numerous forest fringe communities.
FLEGT license will also greatly remedy the ailing timber industry and assist in redirecting much needed funds into supporting the welfare of their workers in this covid-19 pandemic.
Ghana sits on a time-bomb as the deadline approaches and CSOs in the sector are appealing for immediate action.