An ITTO project has had a significant impact on the attitudes of some American consumers towards tropical timber, it was reported on Wednesday.
Dr Alhassan Attah, Director of Ghana's Timber Industry Development Division, who presented the results of the project to the International Tropical Timber Council, said that negative perceptions towards tropical hardwoods presented a major hurdle to exporters. In particular, he said, architects, manufacturers and designers in some importing countries tended to avoid tropical hardwoods due to environmental concerns.
"Sustainable forest management offers tropical countries the chance to both maintain their forests and develop economically," he said. "However, often we find that the door to export markets is closed because consumers believe that logging causes deforestation."
The ITTO project aimed to change these perceptions by informing actors in selected market segments of the US timber distribution chain about the qualities of tropical timber and the efforts being made in Ghana to implement good forest management. It produced a range of information products and also facilitated face-to-face meetings between US timber buyers and Ghanaian timber producers.
Dr Attah reported that a survey of buyer attitudes before and after the campaign showed a marked change.
"Many buyers had an increased understanding of both the strengths of tropical timber over other kinds of timber and substitute products, and a greater appreciation of our efforts to bring about sustainable forest management," he said.
US interest in Ghanaian timber was growing, said Dr. Attah. For example, sales of plywood grew from US$1 million a year in 1997 to US$7 million in 2002, while veneer sales had grown from US$8 million to US$12 million.
"This is good news for Ghanaian people and Ghanaian forests," said Dr Attah. "The timber sector employs thousands of people, and increased exports mean more jobs and more foreign exchange. It also means that sustainable forest management will be a more attractive land-use and could help reduce the extent of clearing for agriculture."
For more information on the project contact Dr Alhassan Attah, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr Mike Adams (email@example.com)
Background documents for the 35th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council are available at www.itto.or.jp. Daily reports are downloadable from the website of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (www.iisd.ca)