MoFR welcomes progress towards timber certification

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L-R front row; PS Forestry Vaeno Vigulu, NEPCon auditor Malory Weston Hatanga’s Adam Bartlett, PHAMA SI Country Manager, Andrew Piper; SICCI Export Industry Development Officer, Samantha Maeke; MoFR Utilisation Division Director, Julius Houria with Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) members at the closing and feedback on recent audit and gap analysis.

The Ministry of Forestry and Research (MoFR) has welcomed a newly undertaken auditing process and gap analysis for sawn timbers in the Solomon Islands.

The work represents a first of its kind in the country’s sawn timber industry and a mark towards proper regulation and certification of sawn timber.

The exercise was carried out by international timber certification group NEPCon with members of the Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA), supported by MoFR and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA).

SITPEA members, comprised of local sawmill and timber businesses, are working towards certification to NEPCon standards to demonstrate compliance with legal timber production and chain of custody requirements.

Welcoming the timber certification breakthrough, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Forestry and Research, Vaeno Vigulu said its history for the timber industry.

“This marks a milestone in the history of Downstream Processing, for the timber industry in Solomon Islands.

“More importantly it marks our endeavour to improve the sales capability of our sawn timber as marketable commodity in the international markets,” he said.

Mr. Vigulu said certified timber, legal source and COC (which involves companies conducting risk assessment or due diligence to ensure compliance in their supply chains) are becoming the norm in the timber industry and is a worldwide development.

“Today, potential overseas buyers of sawn timber want to feel comfortable in promoting responsible timber extraction when they buy sawn timber from legal sources and from legal operations.

“Thus, having our timber and the industry undergone audit inspection to ensure they meet the required standards is a good thing.”

The Permanent Secretary highlighted that, improving the standards within the timber industry to improve commodity brand, is in line with one of the DCCG Governments priority objective areas within the forestry sector, to promote downstream processing into the future.

The intention is to improve sawn timber quality to capture niche markets with additional dollars contributing to lifting the local Solomon Islanders living standards and to export revenues, he said.

“Now that the materialization of the intention to promote legality assurance and COC by third party in our timber industry is realised, implementation of the audit by NEPCon should at least enable our sawn timber to reach the certified and niche markets with requirements for legality assurances.

“More so it should boost the market capability of our sawn timber in the international markets.”

He then acknowledges the effort taken by PHAMA to engage NEPCon technical expert and auditors for their expertise to carry out the first ever auditing process and gap analysis.

“I know the work is not easy, and to the SITPEA members that have undergone the auditing and gap analysis process, thanks for your preparation and consideration to be audited.

“Your interests in meeting the standards and requirements are well recognised by the Ministry of Forestry and Research and something to be proud of.

“We will continue to support you and work very close with you, to strengthen the local timber processing industry in our country.”

The Permanent Secretary adds, to encourage and support the SITPEA members to gain their certification in a year’s time; the Ministry will put more effort on enforcing and promoting sales of sawn timber with valid milling licences.

The Permanent Secretary also cautions those who have already involve, those interest in milling timber and the public, that, any sales of sawn timber without milling licences are illegal and are committing of forest offence and liable for charges.

The Ministry therefore, encourages resource owners to get their milling licences from the Ministry Headquarters, in Honiara, at a cost of only $150.00.

The milling licence is only valid for a year, renewable annually and is subjected to a forest area, he said.

-MoFR Press