The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has launched an investigation to fish out the persons behind the intended export of some five containers of rosewood species.
The documentation on the containers was being prepared by the Global Container Terminal (GCT) at the Tema Port when the content was discovered to be the banned species.
During a fact-finding mission to the port on the detention of the species by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Deputy Minister, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, tasked the managers of the GCT to submit the documentations on the containers to enable investigations into who the exporters of the species were.
The containers were impounded on June 17, 2021, by the Customs Division after officials of the Energy Commission had trailed it to the terminal on suspicion that it contained charcoal meant for export without the requisite permit.
The Principal Revenue Officer at the Customs Division in charge of export at the Amaris Export Terminal, Mr Emmanuel Dzakpasu, said officials had to issue a detention notice on the containers although no individual or organisation had come forward to process the export declaration on them.
“We issued the detention order when officials of the Forestry Commission confirmed that they were rosewood species and we are only waiting for the 30-day mandatory period to elapse so that the confiscation notice can be issued,” Mr Dzakpasu explained.
The logging of rosewood tree species for export has persisted in the face of a ban on the act and reports suggest it has depleted the Savannah forest zone in the northern areas of the country.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in 2019 reported that illegal trading of rosewood trees cost Ghana nearly six million of the wood species, which were mostly exported to China.
The report indicated that over 540,000 tonnes of rosewood, the equivalent of 23,478 24-footer containers, were illegally harvested and exported to China from Ghana from 2012 to 2019 although the ban on harvesting and trade of the tree species was still in force.
Mr Owusu-Bio indicated that the ban on harvesting, transportation and export of rosewood was still in force, noting that the seizure clearly showed that there were some loopholes in the monitoring and enforcement regime, and tasked the Forestry Commission to step up its monitoring efforts.
He said although the seizure was the first to have been carried out in the last eight months, it showed that the system needed an improvement.
Similarly, he said discussions were being held with stakeholders to grow the local wood manufacturing sector by way of value addition and efficient regulation in the exploitation of the species in accordance with agreements with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“We want to use this investigation to check the loopholes in the system to increase enforcement of the ban on the harvesting and exportation of rosewood,” Mr Owusu-Bio said.
“Henceforth, rosewood that may be impounded, confiscated and auctioned would not be allowed to be exported. Rather, we are going to create the local market for its use since we have come to identify that rosewood sent to China could equally be used for the production of luxury furniture which is exported to the global market, including Ghana,” he added.
The ministry, he said, was engaging local producers by giving them some of the species for free for assessment to check whether their machines could process them.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr John Allotey, indicated that officials had initiated mechanisms to monitor the loading of the species at bulk loading points since most traders often purchased them in singles from different harvesting locations.