PNG PROFITS LITTLE FROM VAST FOREST RESOURCE

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Few processing plants in country means raw exports

By Mohammad Bashir PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 6, 2011) - Despite owning almost a tenth of the World’s forestry, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) logging industry is still raw.

There are still not enough downstream processing facilities to process logs in- country and that’s why we are losing out on extra revenue from export logging.

PNG Forests Authority (PNGFA) managing director Kanawi Pouru made this observation when answering questions as to why PNG still imports millions of kina worth of furniture each year.

Mr. Pouru said the government is faced with the mammoth challenge of market forces being driven by consumer demands with no immediate solutions in sight.

When asked why timber products such as furniture were still being imported, Mr. Pouru said: "This is the challenge….we are watching market forces…..if we locally generate, we can stop importing but we need to improve standards, upscale our trades people and this is the shift the government is taking."

Mr. Pouru said with more processing plants coming on board, imports may be reduced and done away with but stressed that it still depended on market forces without giving any specific time frame.

"It must come out of managed forest areas. Consumers want products to come out of managed forest areas," he said, indicating the challenge that was prevalent in the market.

Following independence, the government embarked on accelerated harvest of logs under it 1979 Forest Policy and the land in turn converted to agricultural projects like oil palm in areas like West New Britain years later.

In 1991, the government reviewed the policy and adopted a sustainable development of forest for the collectively benefit of everyone and to be replenished for future generations as per the Fourth Goal of the National Goals and Directive Principles.

The overarching objective of the new policy were two fold, for sustainable management and secondly to derive economic growth for the country. According to the PNGFA, nearly 80 per cent of PNG’s total land mass of 46 million hectares is forested.

Closed canopy forest covers some 33 million hectares, of which 15 million hectares, rich in timber species are currently are regarded as operable or accessible for development. Forests are an integral part of global sustainable development and related economic activities affect the livelihood of 1.6 billion people worldwide.

They provide socio-cultural benefits and are the foundation for indigenous knowledge as ecosystems forest play a critical role in mitigating the effect of climate change and protecting biodiversity. Every day, some 350 square kilometers of forest cover are lost worldwide through conversion to agriculture land, unsustainable harvesting, unsound land management and creation of human settlement.

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