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27.12.2005 Business & Finance

Levy on lumber export must stay - GTA

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Takoradi, Dec. 27, GNA - The National Executive Council of the Ghana Timber Association (GTA) has advised the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning not to yield to the pressure from the Ghana Timber Millers Organisation (GTMO) to stop the deduction of the three per cent levy on export lumber.

Mr Isaac Kofi Nketiah, National Treasurer of GTA said at a press conference at Takoradi on Monday that, if there was the need to stop the deduction of the levy, then the Minister for Lands, Forestry and Mines, the Forestry Commission should meet the three timber organisations to find solutions to whatever problems that exist within the industry. The three per cent levy is deducted to support the Forestry Commission in its operations, particular to assist other players in the timber industry including the GTA, GTMO and the Furniture and Woodworkers Association of Ghana (FAWAG).

Mr Nketia said members of the GTA have over the years complained bitterly about poor prices given by local saw-millers for logs sold to them by timber producers. He said as a result of this, many timber producers had incurred heavy debts, since the prices offered do not meet their operational costs. Mr Nketia said many timber producers were now bankrupt and unable to pay back bank loans; they owe their workers in salary arrears and also utility companies in unpaid bills.

"GTA decided to take legal action on the issue but had to abandon the action following the intervention by the sector minister," he disclosed. He said all efforts to have audience with the minister had proved futile.

Even though the Forestry Commission Board has promised to put in place measures that would take care of the open Log Market to enable timber producers to sell logs on the open market to reflect international market log pricing, this had not been fulfilled, he said. FAWAG also has its own problems, Mr Nketia said and urged the sector ministry to sit down with members and address these problems. He alleged that currently saw-millers have monopolised the timber industry with the imposition of the Log Export Ban. Mr Nketia warned those inciting the saw-millers to stop the payment of the levy to refrain from their action in the best interest of the country's timber industry.