Smuggled teak logs are seized by the government in Katha, Sagaing Region, in 2019 / Forest Department
By Htun Htun 11 June 2019
YANGON—The Myanmar government will again allow the exportation of raw teak and timber from state and privately-owned plantations, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation deputy permanent secretary U Kyaw Zaw said, but a ban on raw teak and timber from natural forests will remain in place.
U Kyaw Zaw said the decision was finalized on May 31.
“Only timber from private and state-owned plantations will be allowed for export. We have already adopted proper verification procedures, because government leaders are very concerned that timber from natural forests could be mistakenly allowed for export,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Teak exports are still subject to an approval process through the ministry, which will grant or deny permission on a case-by-case basis in response to requests from companies, he said.
“In meetings, [timber producers] asked for the re-allowance of raw timber logs because there is a price gap between domestic and foreign markets,” he said.
Ultimately, U Kyaw Zaw said, the ministry decided to reallow teak exports in order to promote the private sector, create local job opportunities and promote forest conservation and afforestation.
In 2014, the U Thein Sein government banned the exportation of all raw timber in an attempt to limit deforestation. The current National League for Democracy (NLD) government also restricted logging beginning in 2016.
The Myanmar government allowed the establishment of private teak and timber plantations in 2006. Before that, teak production was under the sole control of the government.
“It is good to allow exports again, so that private timber growers can generate income,” said U Tin Aye, secretary of the Myanmar Forest Association.
In the last ten fiscal years, 300 private companies have been permitted to plant 251,173.97 acres of teak; as of March 2018, 143,278.26 acres had been planted. In the same period, 104,890.26 acres of hardwood had been planted, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
In fiscal year 2017-18, the ministry’s Forest Department established 14,970 acres of timber and teak plantations.
According to a 2015 survey from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Myanmar has seen the world’s third worst case of deforestation, with losses of at least 1.34 million acres of forest between 2010 and 2015.
More than 143,000 tons of trafficked timber have been seized by the government since the current administration took office, in 2016, according to the Forest Department. Timber from Myanmar is mainly smuggled to China.
The Forest Department auctions off about 80 percent of the timber it seizes.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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