President J.A. Kufuor has stated that the future of the forest industry depends on the expansion of the forest resource through plantation development.
He said that informed the government to embark on a special initiative on plantation development which presently had a total land area of over 140,000 hectares under cultivation.
The President, whose speech was read on his behalf by the Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Mrs Esther Obeng Dapaah, at the opening of the 12th Ghana International Furniture and Woodworking Industry Exhibition (GIFEX 08), said the government had improved the forest governance structure in the country and hoped that would ultimately support the industry to source for only legal timber to process for both domestic and export markets.
He urged the key players in the industry to explore opportunities within the global timber industry, such as the increased trade in secondary processed products and temperate hardwoods.
the Chairman of the GIFEX 08 Council, Prof. Nii Ashie Kotey, said the Forestry Commission saw GIFEX as a potential vehicle for promoting value added processing that could position Ghana as the hub for furniture and joinery production in the ECOWAS sub-region.
He added that the exhibition offered a unique opportunity for service providers and manufacturers of wood products, related goods and other industrial products to showcase their goods and services. At the same time it provided a platform for investment.
Prof. Kotey disclosed that Ghana had entered into a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the European Union, under which there were proposed supporting measures to develop the use of lesser used species and bamboo and rattan.
He further said under the VPA, there would be skills development and the transfer of appropriate technology in the processing of bamboo and rattan to increase the forest sector's contribution to national development.
Touching on the theme of the exhibition, “100 Years of Forestry and 50 years of Industrialisation in Ghana”, Prof. Kotey said it was paramount because of the challenges facing the industry after so many years of existence.
He said during the period of the exhibition, there would be a series of symposiums and workshops to discuss issues relevant to the industry.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Timber Millers Association, Mr E.K.K. Acquah-Moses, said the return of GIFEX was a good move for the timber industry and appealed to the organisers to strive to sustain it.
He pointed out that there were too many challenges confronting the industry, such as the unfair allocation of resources, adding, “We are grappling with the institution of more acceptable methods of resource allocation.”
He announced that the industry had decided to form an Industrial Development Board, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, following which it would contribute 0.5 per cent of its export earnings to a fund to be managed by the board with the aim of accelerating afforestation efforts.
He urged the exhibitors to use the platform provided by GIFEX to create more business opportunities for networking and establishing new business contacts.
Story by MacLiberty Misrowoda