Forest Certification to Generate Economic Activity
Forest certification is not just a piece of paper ensuring forest management certification standard compliance is met but it is a document that can generate income in terms of international and domestic trade in the timber industry.
Minister for Forestry, Hon. Osea Naiqamu said that while the global pandemic caused job losses and the closure of operations for many companies, the Ministry is looking into possibilities of bringing about forest certification for companies in Fiji.
“The Ministry is exploring opportunities of forest certification to meaningfully engage some companies with recovery operations with the hope that this will help re-instate some jobs in the country,” he said.
Minister Naiqamu said the Ministry will first work with Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited (FHCL) to achieve its forest certification as they are getting indications from lucrative overseas markets that want to buy their products.
“This is of vital importance because at this juncture when Fiji needs to enhance economic activity - our mahogany plantations are actually mature and ready to be harvested,” Minister Naiqamu said.
“What we need is to open up the high end markets and majority of them would like to have certified products which is why we need to work on the forest certification.”
Minister Naiqamu said with the $15.7 million budget allocation, the Ministry will assist FHCL with its forest certification which focuses on the sustainable management of resources and chain of custodies.
“This will ensure our mahogany products can access lucrative markets which will in turn help increase the forestry sector’s contribution to Fiji’s economic growth.”
Minister Naiqamu said Fiji Pine Limited paved the way some years back in terms of forest certification where they were able to access markets in Japan and other countries.
“We hope to achieve the same fete with FHCL in the next six months as this is not an easy process but with more awareness we know the forest certification will be of great benefit to Fiji.
“So if we get the forest certification right it is a most welcome injection to the economy and to the livelihoods of our people,” Minister Naiqamu said.
Forest certification is a voluntary process whereby an independent third party (the certifier) assesses the quality of forest management and production against a set of requirements or standards predetermined by a public or private certification organization.
It is a market mechanism to promote the sustainable use and management of forests and to identify sustainably produced products for the consumer. Forest certification and associated labelling is a way of informing consumers about the sustainability of the forests from which wood and other forest products were produced.
To label an end-product as certified, both forest management certification and chain-of-custody certification are required.
Most forest management certification standards address a wide range of economic, social, environmental and technical aspects of forest management, including the well-being of workers and of families living in and around the forest area subject to certification.
Forest managers – such as forest owners, entrepreneurs, associations and timber companies – may voluntarily decide to apply for certification and they may do so in expectation of better prices for their products, to maintain or increase access to markets for their products, to improve their public image and to achieve social and environmental goals.
A certification label on a forest product informs potential buyers that the product was produced in a well-managed forest in accordance with a given set of standards.
Furthermore, the Ridge to Reef (R2R) project funded by UNDP and administered by the Pacific Community (SPC) for implementation by Ministry of Waterways and Environment and the Ministry of Forestry has a component on Forest Certification and Verification of Timber Supply Chains for plantation forest where Forestry is a lead agency and WWF is the Implementer.
The Ridge to Reef project, launched in 2016, aims to preserve biodiversity, provide ecosystem services, sequester carbon, improve climate resilience, and sustain livelihoods through a ridge-to-reef management of priority water catchments on the two main islands of Fiji.
One of its main goals is to ensure an integrated approach to land, water, forest, biodiversity, and coastal resource management in a way that helps reduce poverty and support sustainable livelihoods in local communities.