THE economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are inevitable for the domestic market and the forestry sector has been equally affected at the forefront of this current ongoing economic recess.
Prime Minister (PM) Manasseh Sogavare highlighted this during his nationwide address yesterday.
Sogavare said most forest commodity prices have fallen slightly in the first few months of this year and the demand for certain tree species have been limited as well.
He said a good number of forest service has been reduced dramatically.
However, he said the forest sector’s role as an important component of the country’s economy is crucial in such challenging times.
“My good people, in terms of policy, a Solomon Islands National Forest Policy (NFP) document has been completed, printed and is ready for its official launching,” he said.
Sogavare said the government through the ministry is also currently looking into preparing a Downstream Processing and Adding Value Policy.
“This policy should guide the Ministry on the Government’s intentions on increasing the downstream processing and adding value to the round logs and going forward, will begin the reduction of round log export.
“The interest here is to create more local employment and reduce unemployment rate while exporting higher-value products that would increase revenue generation,” he added.
He said despite the slight fall in the first few months of this year in terms of round log exports, because of COVID19, there are some signs of a slow pick-up but the uncertainty remains.
Sogavare said maintaining some consistency in terms of round logs exports is attributed to logs from tree plantations.
“The very low production of round logs from the natural forest is from the fourth quarter 2019; however, both have managed to produce and contribute an estimated export volume of 706,816.000 m3 (Forestry estimate), dragging into a stand-still in the first few months at the beginning of this year,” he said.
But he said it is showing some signs of picking up going into the second quarter of 2020 and by June 2020 it is regaining at an estimated round log export volume of 1,257,859.806m3 for both, an increase of 551,043.806m3 round log exports from the fourth quarter of 2019 at half the year 2020.
Sogavare said the opening up of a number of niche markets overseas has allowed this to eventuate.
He added the stepping up on monitoring of compliance at this current situation is crucial with the intention to capture the true value of round logs export is needed more than ever.
“Fellow citizens, this pandemic has had negative economic impacts on the country’s revenue collection.
“Therefore, the Ministry of Forestry and Research has taken the bold step to boost its monitoring of compliance on those valid and active felling licenses across the country,” he said.
Sogavare said the first team had been deployed in the past months to Isabel Province and been proven with findings that such nationwide exercise should be maintained with consistency all throughout.
“The effort done is to directly inspect logging operations on compliance of forest regulations, laws and code of practices and ensure that no one is taking advantage of the current situation to evade legal procedures and practices.
“We must ensure the true value of individual companies’ production as round logs to be exported is reflected correctly,” he said.
He said this undertaking is also important to get the views and challenges faced and experienced by the industry during the current COVID19 pandemic.
By IAN M.KAUKUI