Decline in sector

Minister of Forest Osea Naiqamu with permanent secretary Pene Baleinabuli durng the Ministry of Forest workshop at the Holiday Inn in Suva on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

THE decline in the economic contribution of the forestry sector over the past seven years has resulted in reduction in sawmilling operations and some job losses.

Minister for Forests Osea Naiqamu said for the past seven years, the sector contributed an average of $36 million per year to Fiji’s gross domestic product.

“This equates to an average of 0.6 per cent of the GDP. It is a reduction compared to previous decades. Like you, Government is also concerned about this declining trend,” he said.

The Ministry of Forests yesterday held a consultation with the exporters, sawmillers and harvesting contractors in the Central Division at the Holiday Inn, Suva.

Mr Naiqamu said one key reason for this consultation was to discuss how Government could work with the stakeholders to build a robust and thriving forestry sector.

“We are also aware that many logging companies are encountering challenges with the strict requirements of our national road regulations.

“I would like to hear from you on how you propose to overcome these challenges.”

Mr Naiqamu said the ministry had received reports of some illegal activities in the forestry sector and urged the stakeholders to share their views on how the illegal operations could be stopped.

He urged the stakeholders to work with the ministry to come up with a model that would be a win-win for both the stakeholders and the government.

“The current model has some disadvantages to some of the stakeholders and it is important that we consider the appropriate way forward in an inclusive approach.

“The ministry has a role to review and improve forest policy and strategies to ensure that these continue to effectively respond to current challenges in the forest sector and take advantage of opportunities and emerging issues,” he said.

Mr Naiqamu said the ministry would also like to proceed with the review of fees and charges, and royalty that was discussed sometime back but had not been able to progress.

“The review of fees and charges are also important to help generate some revenue for Government,” he said.

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