Forestry sec­tor em­braces sus­tain­abil­ity

Made in PNG - - FORESTRY -

Pa­pua New Guinea’s forestry sec­tor is tak­ing steps to en­sure its wood ex­ports to other coun­tries meet Euro­pean Union stan­dards for sus­tain­abil­ity.

The EU rul­ing (EU Tim­ber Reg­u­la­tion No.995/2010) bans the im­por­ta­tion of il­le­gally har­vested and pro­duced tim­ber prod­ucts into EU mar­kets.

PNG’s di­rect ex­ports of for­est prod­ucts to the EU are mod­est— just 0.2% of the ex­ports in 2011. Of this, plan­ta­tion-grown bal­sawood is the sin­gle largest ex­port.

How­ever, the bulk of PNG’s tim­ber finds its way into over­seas mar­kets via China, which bought 78% of PNG for­est ex­ports, mainly round logs, in 2011. Much of this tim­ber ul­ti­mately finds its way into the EU in man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts.

In­dus­try re­spond­ing to chal­lenge

While any last­ing ef­fect of the EU rul­ing is likely to be on these par­tic­u­lar ex­ports, the in­dus­try is con­fi­dent it is tak­ing the right steps to mit­i­gate the risk.

‘PNG is the only coun­try in the world with 100% in­de­pen­dent third-party mon­i­tor­ing of its log ex­ports [by Swiss com­pany SGS], so we are well placed to meet these emerg­ing reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments,’ Bob Tate, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of peak in­dus­try body, the Pa­pua New Guinea For­est In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion tells Made in PNG. ‘We are also work­ing with China’s State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion to make sure our sys­tems are in sync with what they are do­ing.’

In ad­di­tion, Tate es­ti­mates that 50–60% of pro­cessed tim­ber ex­ports—which go mostly to Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the Pa­cific—are pro­duced by the com­pa­nies that have adopted Forestry Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (FSC), the Pro­gramme for the En­dorse­ment of For­est Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion reg­u­la­tory and trace­abil­ity stan­dards or the SGS TLTV sys­tem for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The cost of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion

Bob Tate ex­presses con­cerns about the costs of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

‘In PNG, most com­pa­nies aren’t pro­duc­ing sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes. SMEs in par­tic­u­lar will find it very hard to make the in­vest­ment in those sys­tems.’

In­deed, he notes that the International Trop­i­cal Tim­ber Coun­cil has called on tim­ber-im­port­ing coun­tries to adopt com­mon stan­dards to make it eas­ier for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to com­ply.

‘It’s hard to know which reg­u­la­tion to com­ply with,’ he said.

SABL in­quiry re­port

The EU de­ci­sion was fol­lowed in June 2013 by a re­port into the il­le­gal al­lo­ca­tion of land to forestry in­ter­ests in PNG.

The Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into Spe­cial Agri­cul­tural and Business Leases (SABLs) de­tailed of the han­dling of 45 leases in the SABL sys­tem, which had been set up for agri­cul­tural projects, not forestry. The Com­mis­sion found that only four had se­cured con­sent of lo­cal landown­ers and had vi­able agri­cul­tural projects. The re­port de­scribed a se­ries of gov­er­nance is­sues, in­clud­ing the lack of man­age­ment and co­or­di­na­tion by key gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and un­due po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to speed up SABL ap­pli­ca­tions.

Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’Neill told par­lia­ment that ‘the pol­icy on SABLs has failed mis­er­ably’.

‘In other in­stances, the agency has sim­ply failed to ad­min­is­ter the law and ap­pli­cants and de­vel­op­ers have en­joyed a free run,’ said O’Neill in a state­ment.

He said the Min­is­ter for Lands and Phys­i­cal Plan­ning would ap­point a Task Force to iden­tify a new leg­isla­tive frame­work to:

• pro­vide for the con­ver­sion of cus­tom­ary land into lease­hold land for the ben­e­fit of landown­ers;

• pro­tect the in­ter­ests of landown­ers: and

• en­sure sus­tain­able land use.

The PNG Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ting the forestry sec­tor to 100% value-adding.

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