Sawmillers plan to file injunction against Govt

Log­gers are plan­ning to file an in­junc­tion against the Gov­ern­ment as it moves to of­fer larg­er acreages of prime teak and pine fields to large scale saw millers.

The threat of lit­i­ga­tion comes de­spite as­sur­ances from Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Clarence Ramb­harat that the new changes in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of lu­cra­tive teak fields will not trig­ger mas­sive job loss and dec­i­ma­tion of small scale sawmilling op­er­a­tions.

The log­gers be­lieve that grant­i­ng more pre­cious re­source to large scale saw millers and fur­ni­ture own­ers will cause over-ex­ploita­tion of the forests at a time when de­for­esta­tion was at cri­sis lev­els.

A re­port from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Au­thor­i­ty in 2012 stat­ed that T&T had a 32 per cent for­est cov­er, with an av­er­age de­crease of 0.31 per cent per year.

 

The log­gers al­so ex­pressed con­cerns that the grant­i­ng of larg­er teak acreages to large saw millers will force a mo­nop­oly in the teak in­dus­try, dri­ving up teak prices and pos­si­bly lead to a clo­sure of small scale op­er­a­tors.

One saw miller, who re­quest­ed anonymi­ty, said, "For some weeks now we are be­ing told that the lot­tery sys­tem will be dis­band­ed and on­ly the larg­er saw millers will get siz­able fields. Why can't every­one be giv­en a five-acre par­cel and when they com­plete that five-acre block, they can ap­ply for an­oth­er?"

The lot­tery sys­tem came about in 2014 and was aimed at en­sur­ing the eq­ui­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of state tim­ber re­sources to el­i­gi­ble saw millers.

The State cur­rent­ly owns ap­prox­i­mate­ly 10,000 hectares of Teak and 4,500 hectares of Caribbean Pine.

The fields, which are a valu­able source of in­come and liveli­hood for many cit­i­zens, were meant to sup­ply the sawmilling in­dus­try with raw-ma­te­r­i­al at a con­trolled rate. Ex­por­ta­tion of the teak was banned for some saw millers as the gov­ern­ment sought to pro­tect the re­source from over­ex­ploita­tion.

How­ev­er, with the new changes to the dis­tri­b­u­tion for large saw millers, ru­mours sur­faced that small­er saw millers will no longer be get­ting five acre plots.

"If this hap­pens, peo­ple will go out of busi­ness. They will have no wood to pro­duce lum­ber and the first thing saw millers will be forced to do is cut staff," the of­fi­cial added.

How­ev­er, Ramb­harat de­nied that this will hap­pen.

" The lot­tery sys­tem is still in place and no one is prej­u­diced. All saw millers were en­ti­tled to the same acreage and if they com­plet­ed that al­lo­ca­tion any saw miller could get a sec­ond al­lo­ca­tion, " he said.

He added, "The on­ly change now is that small saw millers will get the usu­al size plot and if com­plet­ed they can get an­oth­er plot."

Ramb­harat fur­ther ex­plained that " medi­um and large saw millers will get more acreage be­cause of their ca­pac­i­ty. The small saw millers get ex­act­ly what they have al­ways been able to get."

How­ev­er, some of the saw millers said this will cre­ate de­ple­tion of for­est re­serve.

Reporter: Radhica De Silva

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