Invisible exports – timber logs to Jamaica unrecorded by the Guyana Forestry Commission
Jamaican Customs opened a shipping container in mid-March and discovered 122kg of cocaine in bags with a consignment of 130 logs. The Guyana Forestry Commission admitted knowledge of this shipment,
apparently associated with a State Forest Permission assigned to Aroaima Forest Producers Association but actually operated by a Chinese national.
Such shipment contravenes the order by the Junior Minister for Forestry in the national log export policy of 16 November 2008, that from 01 January 2009, logs could be exported only by holders of logging concessions, which the Chinese was not. The shipment was also illegal in contravening Article 158 of the Customs Act, in using a false name in the shipping documents.
The Forest Products Development and Marketing Council has recently issued the trade data for March 2011 compiled by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC). Log exports are thriving (more than 16,000 m3 in
March) contrary to national policy for in-country value addition.
Nearly 3,000 m3 were exported to China, and more than 13,000 m3 to India, with very small quantities to Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. But none to Jamaica. Indeed, no forest products at all
were exported to Jamaica, according to this summary for March. And no forest products have been exported from Guyana to Jamaica for any of the years for which the GFC website carries trade data.
After the disagreements between the GFC and the Guyana Revenue Authority about the failures in export controls in this case, published in all three daily newspapers on 21 and 22 March, the GFC has been quiet about the illegalities involved in the harvest and shipment of these logs, which contravened the Forests Act, Forest Regulations, and Timber Marketing Act.
In addition, the case showed that the Guyana Legality Assurance System was not working, just a few days after the news bulletin from the Ministry of Agriculture ‘Regulations and standards to further improve forest sector’, 15 March 2011.
Now the GFC seems to have decided to eliminate the evidence, by simply denying the record that the logs were exported to Jamaica. Invisible exports conventionally refer to intangibles such as financial
services, but the GFC has given a new meaning to the phrase.