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15.04.2008 Business & Finance

Gov`t urged to suspend teak exports

By Michael Boateng - Ghanaian Chronicle

To assist and encourage
communities to plant teak seedlings alongside food crops to strengthen the country's natural forests, which are being degraded, President John Agyekum Kufuor, in September 2001, launched the Modified Taungya system at Ayigbe, near Techiman in the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The initiative was well taken by farmers, and since 2002, several plantations have been established throughout the country, under the modified Taungya system, with a 40 per cent ownership share to farmers, which saw some communities in the Wenchi and Techiman Municipalities including, Nsemire, Sawsaw and Yaya engage in teak plantations.

However, the expectations of the initiative, has taken a different dimension, as the trees, expected to mature between 10 and 15 years, are being harvested prematurely through illegal means.

Reports indicate that the farmers have condoned with illegal operators, to fell the teak-trees at a young age for very insignificant prices, which has become a major concern to forestry officials in the region.

The devastating issue is that the illegal operators are reported to have armed themselves, and are doing their operations with the connivance of the fringe communities, which has compelled the Regional Office of the Forestry Commission, to impound some forest products from various sawmills in Techiman.

The Zonal Plantation Manager of the Regional Forestry Commission, Mr. Joe Ackah, once told newsmen that the illegal fellers were armed with various offensive weapons, including guns, and operate mostly at night on “a fell and load” system to cover their traces.

According to Mr. Ackah the illegal operators, instead of using machines, which due to the noise they make, would expose their activities, use axes to fell the trees.

He said opinion leaders have met task force, farmers and traditional authorities in the plantation communities, to help protect and preserve the forest, as a measure to arrest the situation.

Mr. Ackah said forestry officials would also be monitoring the activities of sawmills, especially those in Techiman, which are known to be market places for the teak billets stolen from the plantations.

Some dealers in the Techiman Timber market, who did not want their identities to be disclosed, pleaded with the government to urgently suspend the exportation of teak, since that was a contributing factor to the felling of immature teak trees.

According to them, the invasion of Indians, who are scattered in hotels in the communities, were also a major cause to the situation, because the Indians were ready to pay any amount of money for the trees, regardless to the age, which lures farmers to sell their immature trees.

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