The Director General of Myanmar's Forestry Department has submitted a proposal to the new government advising a halt to log harvesting. While there is no official announcement as yet a senior official of the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) has been quoted as saying that his organisation intends to end its logging operations from the end of this fiscal year.
The plan submitted by the Forestry Department proposes the ban in 68 Districts. Prior to 2014 the annual log harvest was over 1 million tons but in 2014 this was reduced to around 60,000 tons of teak and 670,000 tons of other hardwood in.
The proposal from Forestry has been welcomed by the chairman of the NGO Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA) who was quoted in the local press as urging a halt to both teak and hardwood harvesting.
The private sector in Myanmar was shocked by this proposal. Domestic log stocks have been estimated at around 200,000 tons of teak logs and 500,000 tons of other hardwoods. These stocks are in the hands of just a few millers and analysts estimate this volume could meet domestic demand for about two years.
Analysts say most of the private sector are not opposed to the halt to logging to allow for conservation measures to be implemented but would prefer a phased approach allowing time to adjust production and the workforce. A harvesting ban will have a severe impact on employment in the sector.
It is becoming apparent that the Forestry Department is taking control of decisions on harvests once the prerogative of the MTE. A harvest moratorium would severely affect the income of the MTE and could result in a restructuring of the organisation.