It is not an uncommon sight for Ghanaians to see tipper trucks carrying lumber from the forested parts of Ghana along the Kumasi-Tamale-Bolgatanga road en route to Burkina Faso and other Sahelian countries since this kind of trade between Ghana and her Sahelian neighbours has been ongoing for decades.
However, what most Ghanaians are not aware of is that this kind of trade, called the ‘Overland Timber Trade’ (OTT) is mostly done through unapproved means with timber products being taken out of the country without the requisite covering documents nor taxes being paid on them. This mode of operation leads to a tax leakage and robs Ghana of much needed income tax from its natural resources. It also tends to deprive the domestic market of adequate lumber supply due to the fact that it is mostly an undocumented ‘backdoor’ kind of trade that leaves forestry officials with no clue as to how much lumber, meant to meet the domestic lumber needs of Ghanaians, has been unlawfully carted out of the country’s domestic timber markets.
However, the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed between Ghana and the European Union (EU) does not only demand that all lumber exported into the EU market follow legal procedure but also that the domestic market and other trade partners undertake their trade as required by the relevant national laws and regulations.
It is for this reason that Tropenbos Ghana under the project ‘Supporting Knowledge and Regulation of Overland Timber Trade and Promoting Domestic Legal Timber Supply Through Strengthening Artisanal Milling in Ghana’ has put together the manual entitled ‘Guidelines for Overland Timber Trade’ to promote the enforcement and compliance of laws guiding the Overland Timber Trade so as to achieve desired results under the FLEGT Initiative.
The manual brings together modalities guiding the trade that were hitherto scattered among many documents into one document which provides instructions for all key actors of the trade; that is the regulator, the exporter, law enforcement agencies comprising the police and customs officers as well as the trader and consumer.
It provides them information on legal wood products that can be exported overland as well as the required documents necessary for the inspection and grading of timber product consignments for export. It also specifies which documents are required for Export Permits and FLEGT Licensing processing in addition to those required for transporting consignments and for processing Customs Release.