Sierra Leone: Timber Harvesters Cry Foul Over Monopoly

23 September 2020

Timber Harvesters across the country have on government to issue more timber export license to other Sierra Leoneans so as to create a fair and level playing field for timber investment in the country.

They made the call when a good number of harvesters from across the country vent out their anger and frustration over what they described as the monopoly surrounding the export of timber.

According to the harvesters the issuance of more licenses would boost the trade and create a healthy competition, more employment and in turn boost the country's socio economic development.

Their call follows grumblings in many quarters over the monopoly on the export of timber to a single Sierra Leonean company, Leadway Trading Company.

Chairlady of the harvesters, Isatu Mustapha Kabba said the country has excess supply of timber that would be of immense benefit to each and every Sierra Leonean, should Government issues licenses to other capable Sierra Leoneans in the country.

Isata Kabba disclosed that before now, licenses used to be given to four or five people and appealed that government looks into the issue and take appropriate action.

"If there are several certified agents, those without licenses can benefit from export quotas or shares. So far, we have tried to have a quota of the available export rights, but no way. I am appealing to the President to listen to the cries of the Timber Harvesters' Association," she noted.

According to most harvesters the monopoly placed on the export of timber would not only affect the trade, but would create an unhealthy competition in the trade.

Since 2018, the only timber export agent in the country has been Leadway Trading Company but Sierra Leoneans and harvesters are now calling on the government to revisit that arrangement and issue more licenses to other capable Sierra Leoneans in timber trade.

The harvesters claimed that one man alone cannot handle the huge stock of timber coming from Sierra Leone.

They underscored that the monopoly in the trade has had a negative effect on both production and the trade itself.

President Maada Bio appointed Babadi Kamara, of Leadway Trading Company, through an executive order in 2018 as the timber export agent for the Government of Sierra Leone.

In February this year, Mr. Kamara received commendation from State House for generating over 37 million US Dollars from the export of timber, and for raising an additional four million dollars for reforestation.

The harvesters, however, were convinced that Government would have realised more money if export were in the hands of more than one person.

A member of the timber trade, Mohamed Fuhad Swaray, who many people in the timber trade call an expert in the business, told this medium that this is the first time a single company has been given license to export timber, saying it has never happened since 1996.

The harvesters are calling on the President to consider the situation of women and youths gaining self-employment in the production, loading and packaging of timber stock in the country.

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