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Belize is facing a lumber crisis – Is the Government to blame for the shortage?

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Posted: Thursday, March 18, 2021. 2:39 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Scott Varro: As many by now are aware, Belize is currently facing a lumber crisis. The shortage of lumber is felt across Belize, from north to south. Strangely, this is not caused by COVID-19 restrictions, hurricanes or any other natural disaster, no, this is caused directly by our own government. Apart from the few minor permits issued to cut small quantities of logs from privately owned land, no other entity has been allowed to log. This is creating an extreme shortage of lumber nationwide. Why, you may ask, is this happening? That is what every logger, lumberyard, and person needing lumber has been asking for a while now with no clear answer.

Apart from being inferior to hardwood, the price of imported pine lumber has increased significantly and is becoming more unaffordable. Plywood is no longer stocked in some hardware stores because it has tripled in price. Roofing and metal purlins likewise are much more expensive, so why is there a blockage on one of the few local resources we have?

In addition, the current shortage of US dollars (due to COVID-19 induced economic pressures) have likewise greatly hindered imports. So it seems unfathomable to lockdown a major part of the Belizean economy by blocking logging. The construction sector is (was?) alive and well, despite a very difficult year, and now this new development of locking down logging permits is causing major problems for this very important sector of the economy!

New home owners will not be able to build, resort owners will struggle to build or renovate, furniture makers can’t find needed lumber, concrete workers can’t even find form boards…and the list goes on and on. While thousands are already out of jobs in Belize, the situation is being made worse as hours are already being cut from employees in the lumber industry, and many more may soon be completely out of work.

“But the rainforest, the trees! Our oxygen!” some may cry. Any person who has done any agricultural endeavor knows that the “bush” is a mighty force to contend with, growing and taking over rapidly if left alone. Hello, we are in the tropics! Regardless, Belize has VAST tracks of land, covered with trees and jungle, that if managed properly, can yield all the lumber needed for many lifetimes. Replant 2 trees for every 1 cut down! Selectively log, and rotate, and you CAN never run out of trees. These and others are reasonable ways of managing this precious resource.

Currently, our government struggles to find funds to survive, threatening to cut teachers’ and public officers’ pay, etc., while in the meantime it disallows one of its own local industry and major revenue-generating source to operate?

Someone help me to understand! From the royalties that the government collects directly, to the business tax and General Sales Tax (GST) paid by sawmills, builders and contractors, to the numerous jobs created by this very important local industry, and more. The ripple effect of the logging and home building industry is huge in a positive way. This also goes the other way when logging stops.

NB: Scott Varro is the Manager of Linda Vista Lumber Yard and has served in this capacity for over 15 years now. Linda Vista Lumber Yard is primarily involved in the retail sale of hardwood lumber and operates a prefab home building operation based in Spanish Lookout. To facilitate its lumber sales and home building business, Linda Vista purchases logs from loggers with approved logging permits. Currently Linda Vista has a total of 18 employees, pays social security and is registered to pay both Business Tax and General Sales Tax (GST).

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