The Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement Government has been praised for creating the Ministry of Forestry as a stand-alone ministry.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Forestry, Edward Kingmele, during a visit to the newly established stand-alone ministry praised Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua for the initiative.

Echoing his sentiments, the Minister of Forestry, Job Dudley Tausinga, said the CNURA government's action was right because it is for the development of forests in Solomon Islands.

He said the Ministry of Forestry currently engages 149 staff but will recruit an additional 10 in 2009.

Mr. Tausinga said 55 forestry officers and field extension officers are posted out in the provinces to supervise forest owners who replant trees in their logged forests as well as those who want to do so.

Mr. Tausinga said they are also educating resources owners to sustainably harvest their remaining forests.

Last year, reforestation cost the Government $8 million and this year $10 million has been allocated for the project. The ministry plans to replant 500 hectares of logged forests annually.

Solomon Islands' total log export in 2008 was 1.4 million cubic meters with China being the main importer but the ministry expects a slight decline in 2009 as there is a drop in demand.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sikua said the decline in the log export to China means a drop in export earnings for the country.

He said in the current situation, other revenue earnings must be found, but in the longer term, forest owners and their logging operators must cut and replant otherwise the whole country will become bare.

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