PORT MORESBY – I’ve been reading about guys in the forestry business and thought I might share some of my own experiences.
Cloudy Bay Timbers, owned and operated by the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program before the expropriation of Ok Tedi Mine, was a perennial loss-maker although it was operated with all the right intentions and using 'industry best practice'.
It was a fully vertically integrated business running a 'log to furniture' business model using selective logging harvesting methods.
A great concept except it could not sustain itself commercially.
Two years ago my tribe in the Prince Alexander range of East Sepik Province obtained a Roadline TA licence from the PNG Forest Authority.
The intention was to commercially harvest logs along a 40 metre road corridor as a way of enticing private investors to build a main road into our hamlets and open up access to the outside world.
I produced an investment flyer of the opportunity and shared it with one investor from the United States and another from Australia who was a former colleague with connections to wealthy Indian business people.
We also met with a wealthy Chinese businessman to discuss the opportunity.
All three investors looked at the proposition from a disinterested point of view and considered only the commerciality of the available volume.
All three said the volume was not commercially viable.
So the response was a unanimous no.
None of them knew each other so could not have possibly colluded against us.
Given these two cases, can we harvest our forests in both a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable way?
Indeed, should we even attempt to harvest them on a large scale at all?