Barama snags coveted timber legality certification
Guyana’s battle to eradicate illegal logging has been given a major boost with one major company recently received a key certification.
Barama Company Limited, which controls 1.6 million hectares of natural forests, has
undergone an international audit of its logging operations and has been issued with a Verified Legal Origin (VLO) certification.
The certification states that its timber originates from an area where the harvesting is legal, according to the originating country’s regulations.
With increasing pressure for countries with forests to protect their resources by harvesting in a verifiable, sustainable manner, Guyana would be more than glad for this development.
On Thursday, Barama and Government spoke of the development which would effectively allow international markets to not view Guyana with suspicion as to whether the logs are being extracted in illegal manner.
During a presentation on the award of the VLO certification on Thursday at Duke Lodge, Kingston, Barama which is best known for its production of plywood, disclosed that the company’s certification was conducted by Rainforest Alliance of the United States of America.
The company, which employs more than 1,000 persons and has been in Guyana for 21 years, was issued with the VLO certification on November 7, making it the largest single block of tropical forest in the world to be certified under such a scheme.
At the forum were the company’s executives, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud, and officials of other agencies, including the Guyana Forestry Commission and Forest Products Association of Guyana.
According to Minister Persaud, the timber company’s certification is testimony to the standards that have been ensured in the industry, and that it is another example of Guyana’s forests withstanding the scrutiny of independent and international monitoring.
“What we are seeing here is not the Government of Guyana saying its or our regulatory body…but what we see here represents the analysis; it represents the conclusion of independent international verifiers,” he said.
According to the Minister, Guyana’s forest industry is one in the world that has constantly undergone review from a number of external agencies from the United States and elsewhere to ensure its compliance with agreements ventured into bilaterally or at the multilateral level with regards to maintaining rate of deforestation and achieving the rate of sustainable forest management.
He said that in light of all that has been done to facilitate this environment of standards and sustainable forest management, it hurts when people are completely ignorant of the reality, rush in and make quick judgment of the system. “Anyone who says there is rampant illegal logging in Guyana is totally out of reality,” Minister Persaud said.
“The effort we have made…the work done by the GFC (Guyana Forestry Commission) …we are very confident…that the system we have in preventing illegal logging is robust and world class and can withstand any international test in this regards.”
According to Barama’s Head of Corporate Affairs and Forest Planning, Mohindra Chand, the VLO certification basically translates to the assurance that the company’s operation in keeping with international laws.
“As you would recognize, internationally the issue of illegal timber is a front-burning issue, especially in the western world,” he said.
He said, “A lot of the customers in those regions have the concern that the timber being sourced might not be timber complying with their international law, it might be infringing on the social fabric of that country. Therefore they want re-assurance…about whether persons are being harmed, laws are being broken.
“The VLO gives that assurance to the customers that you are buying timber from a source that is compliant with all the requirements nationally and even meet international standards,” Chand said.
Barama’s Chief Executive Officer, Clement Ooi, said that the certification has extremely positive implications for the forestry sector, and the country as a whole.
He said that with the accomplishment, Guyana has again placed itself on the world map for having internationally accepted forest practices, and that this has very positive impact for the country in light of its commitment to forest legality, sustainable forest management practices and its Low Carbon Development Strategy focus.
Ooi said that the company’s move to get certified was not market driven, but based on the company’s conviction of having its stakeholders and customers know that the company is operating at an internationally acceptable level.
A few years ago, in the face of rampant illegal logging, a number of timber companies were fined hundreds of millions of dollars.
With Guyana’s forest said to be one of the most untouched, Government has also been boasting that its deforestation rates remains among the lowest in the world. Guyana has been actively pushing to reduce wholesale exports of its logs, with emphasis placed on value-added.