4M timber industry to spring up in Abaco
After a long and storied history in The Bahamas, the timber industry is on the cusp of blossoming once more, with a new harvesting licensee saying it foresees $3-to-$4 million in annual capacity.
Lindar Industries Limited general manager, Rob Roman, took hold of the lease for a combined 6,746 acres from the Ministry of The Environment (MOE) at a press conference yesterday. The company was awarded a five-year renewable timber-harvesting license by the government for two areas of pine forests on Abaco Crown Lands.
“We are very happy and pleased to enter into this partnership with the Government of The Bahamas to rekindle the forest industry in The Bahamas, and we hope the Bahamian people will embrace the product and use it,” Roman said.
Minister of the Environment, Earl Deveaux, estimated that the investment into the project would come in at just over $1 million and create 20 full-time jobs directly, with potentially 45 alternative jobs out of spinoff activities, including forest thinning, charcoal production, mulch production, and producing other items for the nursery and landscape industries.
“The beautiful thing about the project is that it’s going to create a number of side-industries as we develop a sustainable forest estate,” Deveaux said in a press conference at the ministry yesterday.
A sawmill worth $800,000 is being built south of Marsh Harbour, Abaco. It will produce finished products for the construction industry, including flooring, ceiling bead board, wall paneling, moldings and trim.
The mill was forecast to produce about 1 million board feet next year, Roman saying the company expects to begin production in January.
Lindar is planning to produce two tiers of product, and hoping the finished products come to market in The Bahamas at around Home Depot prices on the low-end, with a more premium line of products that would be higher priced as well.
“We’re certainly trying to match prices from abroad,” Roman said. The company has not finalized any arrangements for retail distribution yet, he added.
There may be future export potential but presently the products are headed for local consumption.
Unsustainable timber harvesting in the past led to the demise of the industry by the early 1970s, Deveaux explained. Large tracts of pine forests in Pineridge, Grand Bahama and Morgan’s Bluff, Abaco had been fell to export for paper production in the U.S and devastated the industry.
This time around, the harvesting should be sustainable and actually improve the health of the pine forests through forest management, according to the minister.
“This intervention will restore the forest to health … By doing what we are doing, we are hoping to manage the [forest] estate a lot better, and it’s not going to impact the protected areas.”
Lindar has met all of the application and environmental requirements of the Forestry Unit of the MOE and the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) commission, according to a release from the Ministry. Some of the trees to be thinned from lease areas will be those that are “deformed, twisted, defective, whipped, wind thrown, forked, wolfed or dead” according to the MOE release. Lindar is to leave 60 to 100 stems per acre, each of minimum six inches diameter at breast height (DBH) to a maximum of 12 inches DBH.
A forest that has been properly spaced through thinning, left alone would take around 17 to 23 years before it could be viable for timber harvesting again. With proper fertilization, forests in Abaco can shave about three years from that time. Abaco’s pines are historically the fastest growing of those in The Bahamas, according to the Minister.
Chris Russell, Director of Forestry at the MOE, said the details of the revenue to the government from the timber harvesting have not been finalized yet.
“What we intend to do is to tax on the end – we’ll charge a percentage of the selling price which is an incentive to Roman, in fact, as opposed to the other way around where we normally tax on the roar material up front. “ Exactly what that tax would be is still being negotiated, according to Russell.
Deveaux said the royalties to the government are designed to get the company moving with restoring the health of the forests.
The lease is for 5,194 acres in Central Abaco called “Little Harbor Protected Forest” (Block 6) and a portion of “Norman’s Castle Forest Reserve”, opposite Treasure Cay Airport for 1,552 acres (Block 2).
Early Bahamian history is marked by a gift of timbers from the earliest settlers of these islands to a group of passing sailors who had supplied them with vital supplies. That Brazaletto and hardwood was the most significant endowment to Harvard University for a hundred years, the Minister said.