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Regional News of Friday, 24 July 2020

Source: Theodore Mawuli Kwaku Viwotor, Contributor

Government has abandoned us - Wood traders lament

The timber industry is the largest foreign exchange earner after minerals The timber industry is the largest foreign exchange earner after minerals

Members of the Domestic Lumber Traders Association (DOLTA) are not happy with the way government has treated them during the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming they have been completely abandoned to their fate

Chief Executive Officer of DOLTA, Mr. Kofi Afreh Boakye, in an interview on the effects of the pandemic on the Association’s members, stated that government did not consider any specific package for them throughout the pandemic, making life extremely difficult for them.

“We were completely abandoned during the pandemic. Government just imposed a total lockdown in March and our members couldn’t do any business. Some had already invested monies awaiting returns when the lockdown was announced,” he disclosed.

Mr. Afreh Boakye said the expectation of DOLTA members was that government would engage them to appreciate their peculiar challenges but nothing has happened even though they are a key contributor to the country’s revenue basket.

“We are all being asked to go for government’s stimulus package. Looking at the number of people and businesses applying for the package, we are not sure of what we would get and whether it can help us out,” he lamented.

He was of the opinion that, government’s engagement with the Association’s members would have given a better understanding of what their needs were for a well-tailored solutions.

He painted a gloomy picture of how members are struggling to survive in the midst of the pandemic, noting that the sector risks collapsing if no support comes forth.

“Our members are finding all sort of means to survive and some even sell their wood at ridiculously low prices just to get something to feed their families. Honestly, our plight is very pitiful,” he said.

According to him, the Forestry Commission, which could have offered some support, is currently facing its own challenges under Covid-19.

“We contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and help conserve the forests through the best practices we adopt in the business. That is why we feel abandoned by government at this crucial moment.”

He revealed that demand for their products has dropped by a whopping 65% with a higher risk of the industry collapsing if nothing is done about the current situation.

According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), the formal forestry sector employs about 120,000 Ghanaians with employment predominantly in log processing industry. The timber industry is the largest foreign exchange earner after minerals, cocoa and oil exports. Primary wood and processed products account for 89% and 11% of timber exports respectively.

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