FOR an indigenous Ghanaian industry to survive for sixty-three years in the face of sometimes turbulent political, social and economic conditions of the country is something that is worth commending.
That is the story of the Bibiani Logging and Lumber Company (BLLC) Limited, the first indigenous timber company in the country.
At a time that many of the local companies are struggling to hold on to their own, BLLC has maintained a strong showing contributing positively to the nation’s socio-economic development.
As the Executive Director of the company, Mrs Comfort Joyce Wireko-Brobby says, “BLLC represents a classical showcase of Ghanaian entrepreneurship in an industry dominated by foreign ownership and management.”
The Ashanti Region is arguably the centre of the timber business in the country. Many of the major timber firms are located in the region, playing a significant role in the development of the national economy.
Today, the timber industry remains the biggest employer in the region, contributing significantly to national growth.
However, the industry has had to go through various challenges leading to the demise of some of them while others struggle to stand on their feet.
It is against this background that the long years existence of the company needs recognition as we move to encourage local businesses to grow.
The company, a wholly owned Ghanaian one, is managed by Ghanaians and employs more than 500 workers with a lot of forward and backward linkages to the economic activities in the company’s concession areas and factory locations.
Founded in 1946 as a logging company at Bibiani in the Western Region in late 1960, it moved location to Kumasi where it established a sawmill to process timber for export.
Its path to growth and competitiveness was enhanced by the acquisition of a0 480m3 capacity kiln dryers to add value to its products and pave the way for the installation of a moulding mill to further integrate its operations.
Today, the company ranks amongst the first six timber firms in the country in terms of operating capacity.
Mrs Wireko-Brobby, the Executive Director whose late uncle, Mr Kuffour was the original owner of the company, believes indigenous companies needed the support of government to enable them to contribute positively in pushing the development agenda of the nation.
Most of these companies have made significant investments in their operations, yet certain legislation and other developments in the national economy have contributed to slow growth in a number of companies.
BLLC had since 2000 invested over US$5 million in a strategic expansion programme which is further expected to change the face of the company.
Major capital investments in the production of rotary veneer and plywood has the motive of making use of lesser known species and thereby diversify the company’s dependence on the primary species. BLLC has also installed three new slice veneer lines that will generate higher value from its timber resources.
As the executive director puts it: “BLLC is now better integrated and well positioned within the timber industry in terms of its operations and product lines. With these investments, BLLC currently has the capacity to process between 7,000 to 9,000m3 of logs monthly”.
“The quality of our plywood remains unique with a high selling point in Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso”, she stated.
With the country’s forests dwindling at a fast rate, the challenge is on timber companies including BLLC to take on afforestation programmes seriously to meet future challenges.
The company is taking up the challenge because management believes it has to live to cross the hundred years and deep into the future.
During a visit to the company premises recently, the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Alhaji Collins Dauda, drummed home the fact that timber concessions were simply not available and that companies that were asking for concessions to enable them stay in business would be making a big mistake if they failed to take on commercial plantation projects.
Until the companies come to terms with the reality, the nation could be moving to a dangerous pitch and the economy would be the loser.