The Forestry sector is a major economic driver for Solomon Islands economy. The export of round logs generated AUD 390 million in 2018, accounting for around 70 percent of total export revenue. However, this level of harvest is unsustainable, and Solomon Islands Government policy is to reduce harvesting to a sustainable level, whilst maintaining export revenues by diversifying the range of timber products and increasing the level of value-added processing of timber for export.
Despite being much smaller than the log export sector, sawn timber is a significant sector for the Solomon Islands economy, with its exports being comparable in value to the cocoa and coconut industries. It is estimated that over 1,500 people are directly employed in sawmills, timber yards and related businesses.
At least 6,500 households financially benefit either directly or indirectly from the production and processing of sawn timber. The value of the annual export trade has been between AUD10 and 14 million in the past decade, and volumes exported between 12,000 and 14,000m3 per year. The total value of sawn timber trade has been relatively steady, reflecting consistent demand and limited availability of supply.
Domestic sales of sawn timber are additional to export sales. Although the size of the market is uncertain, it is estimated to be of similar scale to the export trade. Timber is extensively produced and used by local people for village-based construction. Like timber industries everywhere, the industry is male-dominated but there is potential for improved gender and social inclusion by increasing women’s roles, especially in business and quality management and technical areas.
Since 2013, PHAMA has worked with the Solomon Islands sawn timber industry on a range of initiatives to strengthen the sawn timber sector. Successes to date have included: (i) greater private sector representation through the establishment and facilitation of the Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA); (ii)maintaining market access by working with SITPEA and the Ministry of Forestry and Research (MOFR) towards certification requirements; (iii) the establishment of strong linkages and collaboration with end markets and industry bodies like the New Zealand Imported Tropical Timber Group (NZ ITTG); (iv) the provision of improved market information and training for sawn timber producers; and (v) facilitation of value adding through timber drying and improvements to processing.
Opportunities exist to continue the work towards certification involving industry, government, certification providers and producers which will drive improved governance of the sector and greater transparency. Over time this will contribute to the creation of a more profitable and more sustainable forestry and timber sector. PHAMA Plus has identified scope to improve the value of trade and returns to growers through improvements in timber quality and value and to facilitate greater emphasis on forest replanting and community involvement.