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PNG loggers claim downstream processing ‘unrealistic’ but PM Marape urges on

By Harlyne Joku Freelance Journalist

The call by Prime Minister James Marape for downstream processing of logs by 2020 has been described as ‘unrealistic’ by a PNG logging expert.

Mr Kanawi Pouru a former Managing Director to the National Forest Service, now a forestry consultant to Rimbunan Hijau - PNG’s logging giant said the timeframe of 2020 set by PM Marape for the industry to make it happen is unrealistic.

“We are not saying no to downstream processing of logs, we are saying we cannot rush into domestic processing. We need a proper timeline to apply domestic processing properly. It is a big issue and the industry needs time to digest and think of how we will make it work realistically.

“The industry respects government’s role and directive and will consider and respond accordingly. We cannot rush into this, how realistic are we if downstream will begin in 2020.

At the end of the day it has to be win-win solution for all, the government, the forestry/logging industry and the landowners,” Mr Pouru said.

He said after the Forestry summit the forest/logging industry and private sector would like to have a dialogue with the government to promote the sector.

Mr Pouru made the remarks at the conclusion of the three day 2019 Forestry Summit last Friday during the group panel discussions. He represented the industry.

Prime Minister James Marape in his keynote address to the 2019 Forestry Seminar last Wednesday called for downstream processing in the logging industry by next year 2020.

PM Marape said genuine logging companies must submit their plans by the end of this year.

“We intend to have a mature downstream processing forestry sector when our nation celebrates its 50 years of independence. I encourage the industry players to submit to the PNG National Forestry Authority your respective plans under the current timber and logging permit you hold towards downstream processing of logs you harvest in our country.

By December 2019 we would have all the timber permit holders and logging companies to completely submit your plans to go into downstream processing,” PM Marape said.

He said by 2020 the government will assemble its plans and see whether it is feasible and sustainable.

PM Marape also told the Forestry Summit that by 2020 onwards there will be no issuance of round log export permit to foreign investors.

“New licenses and permits to be issued must be to those foreign investors who propose downstream processing of all timber resources harvested in PNG.

He stressed that round log export permits will be given to only landowner companies established in the country.

“Therefore the government is of the firm view that the government and landowners and the industry must get the fair share of the benefits from forestry.

He called for sustainable harvesting of logs.

“Cut one tree and plant one tree or better still cut one tree and plant five trees to replenish and sustain the forest resource, “ PM Marape said.

The export of round logs generates billions of kina for the PNG economy. According to Managing Director of PNG Forest Authority Tunoi Sabuin between the years 2008-2018, the past 10 years, the total export value of PNG logs reached 34 million cubic meters worth K9.2 billion.

“This is what the industry has earned during the period,” My Sabuin said.

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