PNG LOGGING COMPANIES SURPRISED BY PHASE OUT PLAN

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Forestry minister announced end to log exports in 2010

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 5, 2008) – The Papua New Guinea Forest Owners Association (PNGFOA) and other industry stakeholders are concerned about the National Government’s decision to phase out round logs exports by 2010.

PNGFOA national president Dominic Evere said his association and other stakeholders were only made aware of the Government’s intention last week.

Mr. Evere said they were very concerned about this development.

Forest Minister Belden Namah last Wednesday said the Government was looking at phasing out round long exports two years from now, and for downstream processing to be phased in, including the development of viable agricultural produce such as oil palm.

Evere said his association was concerned that the move by the Government would deprive the country of PGK450 million [US$166 million] in round log exports annually.

"People in the logging areas stand to lose out on benefits brought by in developers," he said.

"We have existing logging and marketing agreements with developers in our respective logging areas, most of them from between five and 10 years," he said.

He said Mr. Namah must clearly spell out what was going to happen to those agreements when the Government decision was implemented.

"If logging operations are phased out, what alternative, in terms of benefits, does the Government have in place for us?" he asked. "It is through logging operations that we get royalties, premiums, levies and other basic infrastructure like airstrip, aid posts and radio communications, amongst others."

He challenged Namah to provide details of the Government’s plan to phase in downstream processing and benefits to landowners.

"He should not pay lip service like other Forest ministers before him. Every Forest minister that comes in talks about downstream processing but nothing happened over the years," he added.

"We welcome the minister’s position on downstream processing but (he) must be consistent with the National Forest Policy."

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