IMPROVED certification standards are expected to boost the Solomon Islands’ $80 million sawn timber industry and strengthen economic recovery.
A recently signed agreement between the Value-Added Timber Association (VATA) in the Solomon Islands and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus Program (PHAMA Plus) will strengthen quality management, traceability and legal sourcing of sawn timber.
Through PHAMA Plus, an initiative supported by the Australian and New Zealand Governments, VATA – a key member of the Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) will buy plantation timber from small, community-based plantation owners for export.
SITPEA is the representative body for the Solomon Islands value-added timber industry, a sub-set of the country’s estimated $1.6 billion forest sector.
Through the support also, two critical certification managers will be hired to improve standards and help SITPEA members to maintain access to existing high value export markets and meet international certification and quality standards.
Australian High Commission First Secretary Economic, Louisa Macdonald Hall said, “Australia is proud to support this project to ensure that Solomon Islands can meet international certification standards and produce timber that is ethically and legally sourced from communities in a sustainable manner.
“This partnership has the potential to boost industry revenue and contribute to Solomon Islands’ economic growth.”
Association representative, Julius Houria, said certification standards demonstrated that their timber had been legally sourced from forest to end-user, in compliance with local laws and regulations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated our members to work towards economic recovery in securing market access and create new opportunities,” Houria said.
“Australia and New Zealand are our major timber buyers and represent 70 percent of the timber market valued at SBD60 to SBD70 million dollars per year. In order for us to continue to supply to these markets, we need certification standards which we anticipate achieving by end of this year.”
Steven Wong, Director of Pacific Export Alliance Group said PHAMA Plus support was critical.
“Only with the support of PHAMA Plus is the local timber industry able to push forward with legality compliance ensuring that Solomon Islands’ timber can continue to sell our key markets in Australia and New Zealand and beyond.”
Improved teak plantation management in the Solomon Islands will raise the quality of timber and allow for higher returns for growers.
More than 7700 hectares of teak were planted in the Solomon Islands in 2019 but the forests remain a significantly untapped resource as community teak farmers have been unaware of opportunities and they have lacked aggregation, harvesting, logistics, and marketing skills to improve the value of their product.
The Solomon Islands’ timber industry provides employment for 1500 people and supports the livelihoods of about 9000 rural families involved in harvesting around the country.
PHAMA Plus will organize a knowledge sharing workshop targeting other exporters, policymakers and donor agencies working in the timber sector to share the learning of the round log teak export.
This will encourage other exporters to understand the cost-benefit of the export of round teak. It will also help the Ministry of Forests to organise its teak conservation and replanting activities with communities as larger volumes are harvested and sold for export.