By Gary Hatigeva
ON the eve of securing their trimmed budget, the Ministry of Forest and Research is looking strongly to reduce the volumes of logs to be exported this year.
This however raised concerns and questions from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who are worried that the government’s budget, which projected something different and indicated heavy reliance on the export with a projection of around 2.4 million cubic metres for 2018, could create major draw backs.
The Committee questioned the status of both the ministry and the budget unit as there seems to be a mismatch in their projections.
When responding to the concerns and questions, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Forest and Research, Dr Vaeno Vigulu admitted that there have not been formal discussions between his team and the unit.
But Mr Vigulu explained that based on another meeting, which received representatives from the finance ministry within relevant units, discussions were held and the issue of volume reduction was raised.
“We actually discussed about slowing down on logging activities in the re-entry or secondary forests.
“At the moment we are exporting logs that are roughly around 2.79 cubic metres per log which are quite small and that means we are applying more pressure on our remaining virgin forests but then we are harvesting more on our re-entry.
“For your information, about 85 to 87 percent of the felling licences active now, are actually operating on secondary forests.
“And so if we are to continue exporting 2.6 million cubic metres of logs we are actually going to open up our forest and harvesting smaller logs than what we export last year,” Vigulu said.
He said last year and 2016 the 2.6 million cubic exports highlighted represented harvesting on around 80 hectares and Vigulu said that was based on opening up secondary forests.
He added that the continuation of undersized harvesting will force the country to wait longer for those forests to actually produce commercial logs or higher volumes to be exported.
“We have had a consultation with SFA last week and told them straight that we have to cut down on our volume of exports because we are actually six times unsustainably harvesting our forest,” the PS further explained.
It is understood that the sustainable harvesting of forest is supposedly between 400,000 to 500,000 cubic metres per annum for Solomon Islands.
Vigulu adds, “Therefore, that by continuing on exporting 2.6 million cubic metre per year will really open up our forests and will have some negative impact to the composition of species and the species abandons of our forest.
“That really needs to be considered and the government needs to come up with an alternative to fill up the gap if we are cutting those trees.
“But if the market can go lower to accept 15 cm diameter small end, that would be good, but we are opening or exposing smaller sized logs and if we need to go ahead with reducing the exports, the government needs to look into to fill up the gaps.”