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Ministry Assists Forest Industries In Upskilling Workers

As part of efforts to increase the forestry sector’s contribution to Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Ministry of Forestry recently conducted a three-weeks training on key areas of harvest operations and timber processing to 45 Tropik Woods operators which began on September 7th and ended on 25th September, 2020.

The operators graduated with certificates in Competency Based Training (CBT) in areas of Timber Grading, Timber Preservation and Timber Seasoning.

This training will also allow the operators the opportunity to market Fiji’s timber at international standard.

The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) of which Fiji is a member of had conducted a study on Raising the Standards of Monitoring the Technical and Environmental Standards of Tropical Timber Products in International Markets.

The study states technical and environmental standards have become important in the international trade of tropical timber products and that should countries wish to maintain or increase access to international markets, producers in tropical countries need to comply with the technical and environmental standards that apply in those markets.  

The regular support therefore of the Ministry is to provide necessary training to forestry stakeholders to boost the quality and production of timber in order to meet the standards of both local and international markets.

Director Timber Utilisation Division (TUD), Tevita Bulai said the operators were trained on grading timber products into different groups - or stress grades as timber structural grading can be performed in a number of ways such as Visual Stress-Grading, Machine Stress Grading and Machine Proof Grading.

“The training is focused on maintaining quality timber standards under the National Timber Grading Rules. Before issuing a timber export license to any company exporting timber abroad the Ministry of Forestry requires to site an original copy of a timber grading certificate,” he said.

Mr Bulai said the participants were also taught on timber seasoning which is the process of drying timber to remove the bound moisture contained in walls of the wood cells to produce seasoned timber.

“Seasoning can be achieved in a number of ways, but the aim is to remove water at a uniform rate through the piece to prevent damage to the wood during drying (seasoning degrade). This is done before any further processing is undertaken.”

Timber Preservation on the other hand, Mr Bulai said is the process of protecting timber from fungi and insects attack so that its life is increased. He said timber is to be seasoned well before application of preservatives.

“The workers were trained to adhere to the Forest Preservative Treatment Regulation which guides the standard of timber treatment in Fiji.”

Ministry of Forestry’s Executive Director Research & Development (EDRD) Mr Semi Dranibaka who presented the certificates on September 25th said the training will not only to upskill workers of Tropik Woods but will also ensure the company meets local and international standards of timber processing.

“The Ministry of Forestry under the Government arm offers basic timber industry training to its stakeholders. Currently all basic training under the Ministry are being evaluated under the Fiji Higher Education Commission for accreditation (FHEC),” Mr Dranibaka said.

“These are competent-based training at certificate level which aims to motivate staff to further pursue their diploma or degree at other tertiary institutions like the Fiji National University (FNU) in the forestry-related field if they wish to.

“Employees who have training and development opportunities are happier in their roles and have a brighter outlook in their future with any organization they work for,” he said.

Mr Dranibaka thanked Tropik Woods for investing in their staff and said the company will see their return of investment through the increase in productivity and efficiency in the whole timber processing chains.

“The training will also ensure compliance of operations to the Forest Act and meet local and international market standards. Complying with international timber processing standards will make it easier for the Ministry to issue any timber export license for overseas markets.”

Mr Dranibaka said the returns in upskilling of staff will not only generate revenue for the company but will also help the forestry sector contribute more to the economy.

He added the Ministry would like to see formidable partnerships with its forestry stakeholders and other government ministries in Fiji and the region – a partnership to foster an environment for healthy economic growth in which workers have the best prospects for employment, earning sustainable wages and lifting living standards.

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