Guyana has vast forest resources that cover more than three-quarters of its landmass and contain over 1,000 different tree varieties. Currently, 120 species are being logged in various forms, with between 12 and 15 of these logged on a commercial scale through a system of concessions (see Box 2.7). The most sought after species include Greenheart (Colubrina arborescens or Chlorocardium rodiei), Mora (Mora excelsa and Mora gonggrijpii), Baromalli (Catostemma altsonii), Purpleheart (Peltogyne spp), Crabwood (Carapa guianensis), Kabakalli (Goupia glabra), and Wamara (Bocoa prouacensis). In 2005, Guyana exported over US$52 million in forest products, ranging from raw and sawn timber, to plywood, molding and furniture products. Plywood accounted for about 20 percent of all forestry exports, with higher-value products, such as furniture, representing a small, yet rapidly growing share (5 percent). Guyanese wood experts estimate that Guyana is capable of filling most of CARICOM’s demand of 300 million board feet of tropical wood.
Approximately 52 percent of State Forests have been allocated to timber harvesting concessions. The industry uses world-class harvesting techniques to ensure the sustainability of Guyana’s forest resources.
Three types of concessions are awarded, based on area size and duration:
– Timber Sales Agreement – granted up to twenty-five years for areas in excess of 24,000 hectares
– Wood-cutting Lease – granted for up to ten years for 8,000 – 24,000 hectares
– State Forest Permission – granted for a two-year period on no more than 8,000 hectares
A selective logging approach is used for timber harvesting activities, where an identified number of commercial species above a specified diameter are extracted from an area. Forests are logged in a manner such that harvesting does not result in a break in the overall rainforest canopy. A Code of Practice sets minimum operational standards requirements, and the Guyana Forestry Commission monitors harvesting practices, through a structured program of field visits.
While Guyana is traditionally known for its export of timber in raw or semi-processed forms, the Government and segments of the forest product industry have placed an emphasis on promoting value-added forest product production for export to the Caribbean, U.S. and Europe. In this regard, there are a number of comparative advantages, similar to those found in other light manufacturing industries, such as affordable and trainable labor (see section on Light Manufacturing below), as well as attractive investment incentives.
A number of lucrative opportunities exist for investors interested in working with Guyana’s wood industry. These include furniture (e.g. hardwood and wicker), plywood and veneers, molding and doors, parquet, floor tiles, and other related products. Within these product sectors, additional value can be achieved on investments that meet the requirements of certain environmental and social certifications from organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). There are also a number of opportunities to expand the development and marketing of lesser-known species where utilization is well below capacity, or where species are yet to be utilized commercially. Even in cases where the availability and accessibility of species does not warrant large-scale exploitation, lucrative opportunities exist for investors able to develop products for niche, high-value markets.
There are a number of governmental and private organizations involved in the forest products sector. The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is the government agency responsible for the administration and management of the 13.6 million hectares of land classified as State Forest.
The Forest Products Association (FPA) represents private forest producers and has substantial practical knowledge of timber production and forest uses. The FPA collaborates with the GFC in selected training and research initiatives. This includes the Forest Training Centre Incorporated (FTCI), which was established in collaboration with the Tropical Forest Foundation (U.S.) and DFID (UK) to implement a Reduced Impact Logging program focusing on hands-on demonstration and training in an actual timber harvesting operation. The FPA is also a timber development partner in the Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development. Iwokrama aims to promote the conservation and sustainable use of tropical forests that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits.
The GMSA represents the interests of down-stream wood products manufacturers (see Manufacturing for details).