Gov’t appointees contradict each other on burning of confiscated rosewood

Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, has said confiscated rosewood will not be set on fire as announced by the head of the Forestry Commission (FC).

“The Ministry is not aware… that rosewood seized would be burnt, and indeed seized rosewood will not be burnt. We will use it for a different purpose instead of burning it,” he told journalists Wednesday during a media encounter.

The CEO of the Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John had previously announced that all confiscated rosewood would be burnt to serve as a deterrent to others breaching the ban on the exploitation of the forest tree.

Harvesting, transportation and exportation of the tree have been banned by the Lands Ministry since March 2019.

The ban is to stop the indiscriminate exploitation of the wood but the situation persists.

Sir John explained that the burning of the confiscated rosewood became the only option after previous efforts, such as obtaining court orders to auction them to the public, failed to end the menace.

He made the comments in an attempt to refute graft allegations against the Commission.

The Forestry Commission has been accused by civil society organisations of issuing illegal permits for the exportation of processed rosewood to China.

However, the sector Minister, Mr Kyeremeh, said his outfit is not aware of of a government-backed policy to set confiscated rosewood ablaze.

The Minister also gave the assurance that the findings of an investigative committee looking into the illegal harvesting and smuggling of rosewood will be made public.

The Lands Ministry set up the committee headed by his Deputy, Benito Owusu Bio, to look into claims by an environmental investigative agency that some government officials and heads of allied agencies are complicit in the smuggling if the highly-priced rare wood species.

Concealing figures

Meanwhile, a study has revealed Ghana is illegally under-declaring its rosewood exports to China in breach of international conventions.

Analysis by a researcher at the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) William K. Dumenu shows there are “huge discrepancies and inconsistencies” in export and import volumes as declared by Ghana and China.

There are also discrepancies in the figures reported to the Convention on International Treaty on Endangered Species (CITES) trade database. CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals ratified by 182 countries.

According to the report, in 2016, Ghana reported it exported 96,549m3 of rosewood to China. But data from China Customs show that the country imported 205,659m3 from Ghana.


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