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$17.7M Forestry Budget: A Triple win for Economic, Environment and Social Wellbeing

Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has welcomed the allocation of $17.7 million for the 2022–2023 financial year, a 28 percent increase from the $13.8 million allocated in the revised 2021-2022 budget.
Mr Bainimarama said the budgetary increase is testament of Government’s continuing recognition of the importance of forests and trees to our economic, environmental, and social wellbeing – a triple win that is the ultimate end-state of Government’s goal for the forestry sector.    
He said that the budgetary increase is also in recognition of the Ministry for Forestry’s increasing achievements, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic years when it helped facilitate the highest exports revenue in 10 years and continued Fiji’s tree-planting campaign with an achievement of 12.5 million trees and mangroves in 3.5 years. 
He said the budget will boost the Ministry’s operations as it supports the private sector to add value to the national economy, support forest-based communities, and advance the national forestry agenda towards a greener, cleaner and sustainable economy.
This is also the Ministry’s highest budget since it was separated from Fisheries in 2016. The budget of $17.7 million in addition to $0.4 million for quarters upgrading under the Ministry of Economy will ensure greater progress is made towards the sustainable management of forests through restoration, conservation and regulation, revitalisation of the forest sector for socio-economic recovery and the enhancement of forests for environmental services to improve lives and livelihoods of all Fijians both for the current and future generations.

Overarching focus
The overall budget strategy for the Ministry is the development of forestry based jobs, investment into eco-tourism, enhancing production of wood and non-wood forest products, down-stream value adding, utilisation of non-prime wood for biomass energy generation, improving forest to market opportunities, improving shipping and log removal and transportation capabilities and overall forest value chains. These are just a few examples illustrating the wide scope of the socio-economic impact of forests. 
Forests are also crucial for the survival of our planet and humanity. It is widely known that forests play a significant role in our climate and that by protecting them, we can achieve net zero emissions. Reaching net zero is fundamental for our future, as it is a state at which global warming can be stopped, when greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced out by the amount removed by forests and trees.
Fiji's forests also significantly improve the standard of living for rural residents by offering both timber and non-timber goods as well as environmental services like soil conservation, water catchment, and carbon sinks. 
Today, we outline a summary of our budget allocation and in the coming weeks, we will go into greater depth about how each division will use the funds to produce the best outcomes possible and help the forestry industry continue to play a significant part in our economy by creating business possibilities, increased revenue for landowners and create new and sustainable jobs.

Tree-planting programme
In recognition of the importance of forests and trees, the Government has and continues to reposition itself to promote the sustainable management of Fiji’s forests.
With a $3.3 million increased allocation, the Ministry will continue coordinating Fiji’s landscape restoration programme through the planting of trees and mangroves. Since its inception in 2019, together with stakeholders and visitors, Fijians have planted over 12.5 million new trees and mangroves. This represents 41.96 per cent of the 30 million trees target to be planted in 15 years.
In his budget address, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the allocated budget would provide technical support in terms of seed sourcing, seed supply, nursery and silviculture practice training and direct incentives for landowners to establish and manage their own forests. “This initiative is one of Fiji’s main platforms towards addressing climate change because trees are scientifically proven to be among the best nature-based solutions for capturing carbon,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
The additional funding will enable greater support for resource owners who wish to establish forest plantations, nursery owners from whom seedlings will be purchased, and assist the Fiji Pine Ltd in replanting their logged areas. There is also provision for direct incentives for land owners to establish and manage their own forest plantations and through this, Government will pay a sum per area planted following a verification and validation process.

Research and development of wood and non-wood products
Native forests have been the mainstay of Fiji’s timber industry for decades. The Ministry anticipates that the area of Fiji's native forests will have gradually shrunk over time. While the Government has launched a vast landscape restoration effort, it is considered to be extremely prudent to diversify into other timber species, particularly non-timber forest products that have a high market value and can be harvested quickly.
Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are any product or service other than timber that is produced in forests. The NTFPs of immediate focus include agarwood, bamboo, beach mahogany/dilo, candlenut/sikeci, coconut veneer and sandalwood.
The Ministry has been given $500,000 for research into developing new forest products that can increase economic opportunities for resource owners, cottage industries and the sector. This is an increase of $485,000 or over 400 percent.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this funding would support in-depth studies of identified tree species, trial tests, specialised equipment as well as collaboration and consultation. He said this was part of the diversification programme for the forestry sector.

NFI and reducing carbon emissions

Fiji is committed to the global objective of reducing carbon emissions and enabling carbon trade through the protection of its extensive forest resources. 
The Ministry has been allocated $350,000 to complete the National Forest Inventory, which is an accounting of Fiji’s forest resources and an essential reference for decision making on the sustainable management of our forests, including carbon trading. This represents an increase of $272,000 or 120 per cent for continuing the work implemented at the REDD+ Pilot Site in Draubuta village, Navosa. All activities under the implementation phase of the Emissions Reduction Programme (ERP) are practiced at the pilot site and thus supports Fiji’s participation in the carbon financing mechanism under the World Bank funded initiative in reducing deforestation and forest degradation and increasing forest carbon stocks.
The activities demonstrated are of a primary forest of 7,347ha which been leased and conserved under the Forest Protection activity followed by other demonstration of REDD+ intervention activities practiced on site such as Sustainable Forest Management, Climate Smart Agriculture and Tree Planting. This REDD+ Budget is supplemented with an additional $2M from the World Bank FCPF grant.


In supporting Government’s on-going efforts to improve the ease of doing business, the Ministry is transitioning its licence processes into digital platforms. The transition from manual to online applications will ensure greater efficiency, transparency, accountability and effectiveness in service delivery. This technological innovation is not only convenient for forest industry stakeholders but it also ensures that the wheels of commerce keep turning in a more efficient manner throughout the sector.
Despite the disruptions brought by COVID-19 to businesses as well as lives, the digitalisation of licensing procedures is proving successful. 
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Ministry had implemented online licensing for the export and import of timber and forest products, which had reduced turnaround time for approvals to within 24 hours. 
“Additionally, the online application for logging licences now enables licences to be issued within 48 hours provided all required paperwork is uploaded. This budget will continue to support the Ministry’s ongoing digitalization transition in support of the ease of doing business and the sustainable management of our forest resources,” he said.
The online facility and strong partnership with the industry led to the forest sector increasing its exports of timber products from a value of $75.8m in the 2019-2020 financial year to almost $100 million in both the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 financial years. These are the highest exports revenue generated in a 10-year period.

Other allocations
New funding of $300,000 has been provided for upgrading the Ministry’s sawmill facility to strengthen the capacity for sawmilling and saw doctoring training and to research methods for increasing the utilisation of wood from harvesting operations and from timber export processing facilities. 
Another $300,000 has been provided for upgrading the wood analysis laboratory and purchase of laboratory machines for timber analysis which will provide more accurate analysis of timber samples and improve the quality of information for stakeholders, while maintaining the required quality control for construction and other uses.
Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry – the new allocation of $150,000 is for the Ministry’s contribution to the hosting of the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry. It is a one-off allocation. 
The Maritime Pine Development project is intended to provide a return on investment for pine grown decades ago in the maritime islands. Government has allocated $700,000 to assist maritime resource owners through the provision of appropriate harvesting machines and equipment with the capacity to economically harvest, process and market their mature Pine trees. 
More than $150,000 has been allocated for Fiji’s membership subscriptions with international forestry research and standards organisations to ensure access to  project funding, international technical capacity development programmes, participation and representation of Fiji in international forums to negotiate and garner support for grants and technological advancements to support national efforts in the sustainable management of Fiji’s forest resources, and to meet international reporting requirements.
The Forestry 2022-2023 Budget will certainly bring good tidings to the forest sector including industry, resource owners and the environment.

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