Mixed impact of Bai Shan Lin’s closure on small loggers

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 July 2016, 19:48 by Denis Chabrol

Hundreds of small loggers have been left with stocks on hand and no buyer, resulting in a severe economic downturn since the closure of the Chinese company, Bai Shan Lin.

Kwakwani logger, Charles Thom lamented the economic impact of the pull out of Bai Shan Lin and low sales to other buyers. “Right now dem shops struggling. The chicken farms are shutting down. You are getting a glut in greens. Money not circulating in the area,” said Thom who is also the leader of the Kwakwani United For Progress (KUFP) group that contested local government elections earlier this year.

He noted that loggers in Kwakwani once sold 2,000 cubic meters of logs per month, but now that is down to 500 cubic meters and the prices have declined from GYD$2,200 – GYD$2,500 per foot to GYD$1,200 to GYD$1,500 per foot. They also want GYD$250 BM for chainsaw cut lumber.

He estimates that there has been a  50 percent decline in economic activity in Kwakwani and 70 percent slowdown in Ituni.

He also noted that since Bai Shan Lin downed tools and parked its vehicles, roads and bridges have fallen into disrepair, making it difficult to access new lands that had been opened up by that same company. Normally, he said that company would maintain the thoroughfares or even lend the community vehicles to assist in maintenance works.

“Bai Shan Lin has a big impact because they used to buy a lot of wood and open a lot o new lands and maintain roads and they used to help the community a lot in maintaining internal roads and but they not being here our internal roads are suffering a lot,” he said.

Thom said the community of Kwakwani has lobbied government unsuccessfully to secure higher prices for logs and lumber from contractors. “The government is saying they can’t do it but I am saying they can do it,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Secretary of the Linden Agriculture and Forest Producers Association, Lynette Benn bemoaned the impact of Bai Shan Lin’s closure on the small

However, President of the Ituni Small Loggers Association, Richard James told Demerara Waves Online News that since Bai Shan Lin’s closure small loggers in his area are getting higher sales because there is no longer a glut especially for hardwood logs. “It is not affecting us. We feel that Bai Shan Lin floods the market out there like in the city by selling cheap logs. The price had dropped considerably,” he said.

James said that for the past two months, loggers in his area have been getting orders and the price is slowly improving.  He believed that big Chinese companies have been selling hardwood logs to sawmills in Georgetown as a “hustle.”

Similar views were expressed by Advisor to the Linden Agriculture and Forest Producers Association, Phillip Bynoe who said that there is a number of other Chinese buying wamara, a wood similar to rosewood, that is used to manufacture large quantities of exquisite furniture in China. “Wamara is back in the market. the demand for it is picking up and in the absence of Bai Shan Lin a number of Chinese are coming in the country specifically to purchase on wamara logs and once they keep coming the price will go up,” he said.

Secretary of the Linden Agriculture and Forest Producers Association, Lynette Benn told Demerara Waves Online News that Bai Shan Lin had transformed the small loggers association. “Now that they are not there on the market and the type and number of logs being sold is declining and to sustain our concessions without having buyers is very devastating,” he said.

Reflecting on newspaper reports several months ago that had included pictures of logs at Bai Shan Lin’s locations, Benn said those logs had been harvested by small operators and taken there. “They were logs that were being purchased from the association,” he said.

Benn estimates that 40 percent of the Region 10 community has been affected. “If you had gone into Kwakwani, you would have seen a lot of small businesses opening and people would have been able to have a better livelihood in terms of transportation and better homesteads,” she said.

She agreed that Bai Shan Lin’s tax concessions granted  by the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government would have raised some concern, but she believed that the new government’s stance would have scared away that company. “Before this new administration took over, the Chinese and other investors were in Guyana and they were able to do business but since this new government took over and there is a lot of speculation on what they would do and what they intend to implement that would have caused the buyers to stop doing business because they don’t know what impact it will have,” she said.

However, Bynoe contended that Bai Shan Lin was bad for Guyana due to its corporate practices that had stretched across the government with which it had had a cozy relationship. “The difference is that you have a president whose face is firmly set against corruption so there is no way they can continue to do as they had been doing,” said Bynoe, a former executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform who had later become an ardent PPP supporter. In the May 2015 elections, he campaigned for the APNU+AFC coalition.

It is a good thing that Bai Shan Lin is out of the picture; they  are the bad news, they wanted to control supply,” he said. Bai Shan Lin used to use its influence to lock off the market in China.”

Wamara is in heavy demand because rosewood harvesting is banned in Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore.