Mike Hammah

Ghana is currently considering importing logs from Cameroon after losing its forest cover, which stood at 8.2 million hectares a little over a century ago.

Ghana’s primary rainforest has reduced by 90 percent over the past few years, registering a loss of 1.9 million hectares or 26 percent of its forest cover.

Currently, the country’s forest cover stands at less than 1 million hectares and this has been aggravated by an estimated loss of 65,000 hectares of forest annually.

Recently, Minister of Lands & Natural Resources, Mike Hammah, led a team to Cameroun to explore how Ghana could buy logs from the West Central African country while it restores its forest.

Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Ngole Phlips, who welcomed the move, assured journalists that his country was looking forward to trading with Ghana to reduce its dependence on the international market following the economic crisis in Europe. Europe consumes about 80 per cent of Cameroun’s wood, the minister said.

Professor Bannoe Yakubu, Chief Director of Ghana’s Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources, confirmed that Ghana would buy logs from Cameroon.

Ghana’s forests, which covered about one-third of Ghana’s total area, used to be the main source of exports.

Until recently, timber was the country’s third largest foreign exchange earner and the forestry sector was the highest recipient of aid and commercial credits.

Cocoa and gold are the first two foreign exchange earners. It is estimated that Ghana earns some $300 million from timber products annually. Ghana’s forests contribute between five and eight per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

A decade ago, timber and wood product earnings totaled US$212 million. The country’s exports of over 919,000 tonnes have dropped significantly.

Indiscriminate felling of trees by individuals and illegal chain saw operators, coupled with bad farming practices, bush fire and many others have been identified as the root causes of deforestation.

Though there are over 220 lumber processors in Ghana, the industry faces several challenges.

Prof. Bannoe Yakubu stated that Cameroon has the raw materials that the Ghanaian operators in the industry need.

Ghana and Cameroon have since resolved to establish a Permanent Joint Commission to expand the scope of bilateral relations between the two countries to promote forestry and other sectors in the spirit of South-South co-operation.

In furtherance of this resolution, a high-profile body comprising technical teams from both countries is expected to be constituted to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance trade. These were contained in a Cameroon-Ghana Joint Communiqué on Bilateral Co-operation on Timber and Timber Products fashioned out in Yaounde between the governments of Ghana and Cameroon during a three-day visit by Ghanaian delegates.

Organized in pursuit of the International Tropical Timber Organisation’s (ITTO) vision of promoting intra African trade in timber and timber products, the visit, among others, provided an opportunity for Ghana to explore the possibility of importing logs, sawn timber and veneer from Cameroon to feed mills in Ghana and identify areas of collaboration to promote bilateral trade in timber.

Additionally, modalities would be developed to foster collaboration in the areas of research and development of timber and timber products, particularly lesser known timber species to bolster the timber industry in both countries.

As part of the visit, Hon. Mike Hammah toured the autonomous port of Douala and three timber processing plants.

He was accompanied by Albert Abongo and Andrew Adjei- Yeboah,  Chairman and Ranking member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry respectively and Alhassan-Atta, Executive Director of the Timber Industry Development Division of the Forestry Commission, as well as other stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

 By Emelia Ennin Abbey

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