It has emerged that about 90 percent of Freight Forwarders in Ghana lack the technical expertise and knowhow to identity all wood products including the Rosewood species and as such cannot deliberately misclassify or mis-declare Rosewood trees bound for export.
The recent Technical Committee’s report on illegal export of Rosewood export from Ghana to China cited Freight Forwarders for deliberately misclassifying and mis-declaring the species that contributed to significant export disparities of Rosewood to China.
In fact, while Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) figures on the export of the species amounted to more than 6 million trees between 2012 to 2019, government however has insisted that it is just 489,766 trees that were exported despite the ban in place.
Speaking exclusively with Goldstreet Business, the President of Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) Mr. Edward Akrong said unless the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has any specific information as to whether there was a collusion between any freight forwarder and exporter, his members cannot be blamed of the significant export disparities of the trees.
“Any information given me will come from a client who is shipping the trees. We are not technical people. We don’t deal in wood products. We deal basically with documentation. If a client comes to me and says he has obtained export permit from the forestry division to export wawa or mahogany and gives me the documents, there is no way I can identify that the actual products are Rosewood”, Mr. Akrong pointed out.
He insisted that the containers are actually sighted and inspected by Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in relation to timber species identification and as such Customs should have been the technical capacity to detect such products.
The disparities on the volume of Rosewood timber export to China can similarly be compared to some other export commodities, most especially gold.
For instance, Ghana’s official export data for gold trading with Switzerland in 2018 amounted to export value of a little over US$3 billion. However, Switzerland’s gold import figures with Ghana revealed that they had imported more than US$7 billion worth of gold, this being more than double the total export revenue recorded by Ghana. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recorded US$7 billion worth of gold imports from Ghana, but Ghana’s official data for export to UAE showed just US$2 billion.
It is expected that the disparities in the figures would have risen significantly if all exports and imports data between Ghana and the countries that buy gold were to be examined.
In August 2019, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, inaugurated a seven-member Committee to investigate a report by the EIA, a team of international investigators and campaigners against environmental crime and abuse.
It alleged that between 2012 to 2019, more than six million Rosewood trees have been cut down in Ghana for illegal export to China, with the EIA report blaming some corrupt Ghanaian officials for forging documents to allow the wood to leave the country.