800,000 hectares of Barama’s former concessions doled out

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The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has awarded to Rong-An Inc and R.L. Sukhram two lots of Barama Company Limited’s former concessions, totalling more than 800,000 hectares.

The move comes after Malaysia-owned Barama announced in 2016 that it would not be seeking a renewal of its 25-year-old forest concession agreement with Government, and would be scaling back its operations.

According to the Natural Resources Ministry, a decision has been taken, in tandem with input from the GFC, to divide the former Barama Company Limited concession into four parcels, each approximating 400,000 hectares.

There are questions about how many Barama workers will benefit

“The ministry advertised two of those parcels as State Forest Exploratory Permits, which means that there is a three-year process of assessment prior to commercial full-scale harvesting.

The third parcel was identified for conservation and research, while the fourth was identified for small concession allocation of areas 20,000 acres and less,” the Ministry stated on Saturday.

“Parcel 1 is a forest area of size 417,809.23 (hectares) and is located in the Essequibo region (North West, Mazaruni-Potaro District). Parcel 2 is a forest area of size 432,262.59 (hectares) and is located in the Essequibo region (North West, Mazaruni Potaro District).”

According to the Natural Resources Ministry (MNRE), the concessions are located in Northwest Guyana in Region One in the Barima-Waini, and Region Seven in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni sub-regions.

The ministry has said the concession areas both have a high occurrence of a number of high-value commercial timber species, including Baromalli, Greenheart, Purpleheart, Mora, Wallaba, Crabwood and Kabukalli.

“Parcels 1 and 2 were opened for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for the period ending February 10, 2017. These were advertised in the local media as well as in the international publications ‘Development Business’ and ‘The Economist’, and placed on several websites.

“Ten submissions were made at this deadline, some for both parcels while others were for one or the other. These firms were invited to submit State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) applications, pay the non-refundable fee, and complete a Business Plan Summary by April 28, 2017.”

The release said that at the deadline of April 28, 2017, five applications were received from the following entities: Chemtech (Trinidadian firm) for Parcel 1, R.L. Sukhram and Sons Sawmill for Parcel 2; Rong-An Inc. for both Parcels 1 and 2; Forlene and Sons for Parcel 2; and ACE Resources (Canadian firm) for both parcels.

“Following the receipt of applications, the Technical Sub-Committee of the GFC Board of Directors conducted a full review of each application. The review of the Technical Sub-Committee concluded that Parcel 1 should be issued to Rong-An Inc., and for Parcel 2 to be issued to R.L. Sukhram and Sons Sawmill, for a three-year period commencing July 2017 to July 2020.”

Following this process, a recommendation was made to the full Board of Directors, and the 129th Meeting, held on June 27, 2017, approved Parcel 1 to be allocated to Rong-An Inc., and for Parcel 2 to be allocated to R.L. Sukhram and Sons. This decision was approved by the full Board and has been implemented by the GFC, the MNRE said.

The MNRE expressed optimism that awarding of the two parcels would result in benefits to the forestry sector, including a total investment of US$9.5 million by 2020 and a total of 524 new jobs being created when the operations are at full scale.

Barama had announced the scaling back of its operations in October last year, but the company is reportedly still deciding whether it is profitable to continue its sawmilling and veneering and plywood manufacturing here.

According to reports, Government’s slothfulness in reviewing the renewal of the contract was the main reason behind Barama’s decision to leave the market.

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