The lumber industry calls for trained personnel
The need for human resources for forestry tasks arises amidst an initiative to provide economic assistance during closed seasons.
The possibility of providing economic support to lumber workers during closed seasons has sparked a debate about whether this alternative aligns with current needs or if the focus should be on training personnel for forestry tasks.
Bianca Morán, former president of the National Association of Reforesters and Related, emphasized the importance of promoting technical education to cultivate a pool of trained personnel and improve the quality of life for those currently working informally in the profession.
“99% of Panama’s wood exports come from commercial teak plantations where work goes on for 12 months a year because, after the extraction months, the personnel transition to working on planting and maintenance tasks,” Morán said.
According to Morán, it has been proven that commercial plantations positively impact the economies of the communities where they are located because all employees have social security coverage and the environment is cared for.
The expert highlighted that companies involved in wood trading require foremen, precision chainsaw operators, foreman assistants, mechanics, packing list data entry clerks, among others.
In contrast, she pointed out that the lumber sector, related to native forest extraction, represents only 1% of the country’s wood exports (through piecework) and is carried out by informal workers, posing risks that lead to fatalities in the field and is a business on the verge of extinction.
“The sale of wood from native forests is not only banned in Panama but in all premium markets around the world due to its impact on fragile populations, its contribution to deforestation, and degradation of water quality,” she explained.
She added that operators in native forests are not eligible for credit from banks since this activity is considered harmful to the environment.
Regarding the possible subsidy, Morán stated that it does not create any new job positions, does not promote employment, nor ensures economic freedom.
In the National Assembly, there is an initiative aimed at protecting lumber and fishing workers. The project establishes a monthly monetary allowance from the state during the forestry suspension period or closed season.
If approved, to access the aid, the individual must be exclusively engaged in these activities and be accredited by the Ministry of Environment or ARAP. The allowance should cover the basic needs of the worker, and if the closed season exceeds six months, the state will have to help the worker transition to another activity.
Deputy Abel Beker, the proponent, stated that the proposal aims to support humble workers who rely on these trades and face severe penalties when they fail to comply with regulations.
“If there’s a closed season, who provides assistance to them? In Costa Rica, they don’t cut wood, but they’re compensated for it. We can’t punish our people who cut wood to sell and buy a pound of sugar or chicken,” he remarked.
On the other hand, Alexis Peña, General Secretary of ARAP, emphasized that the Ministry of Economy and Finance must have a more active role in this project as it needs to be clear where the funds will come from to ensure the monetary allowances are sustainable.
“We need the support of the MEF to guarantee this project. We recommend analyzing this to assess its viability and sustainability,” Peña underscored.
Ecotopia Teak, S.A., we are a family-owned company dedicated to reforestation, harvesting, and exporting wood from commercial plantations. We work under high production standards and with social responsibility to obtain high-quality wood according to the needs and demands of national and international markets. Additionally, we actively contribute to the local economy by creating employment opportunities in the communities where we operate. Our commitment is to lead the industry in sustainable reforestation and wood production, preserving our natural resources and building a greener and more sustainable future.