Miro Forestry – Sustainable Timber Business

Miro Forestry and Timber Products is a vertically integrated, sustainable forestry and timber products business centred in West Africa. The company operates forestry plantations with over 30,000 hectares of land and is next year to commission its first plywood production factory.

Since commencing the planting of timber crops in 2010, Miro Forestry has come a long way. Today, the company is focused on fast-growing, high-yield plantation timber for the production of plywood, utility poles, edge glue boards, and energy biomass for both local and international market, aiming to be a leading low-cost producer and supplier of sustainable timber operating to high management, social and environmental standards.

The company’s strategy is to convert low-yielding grassland and degraded forest into sustainable plantations growing the highest-yielding timber crops suitable for the land areas under the company’s management. The limited long-term investment into Africa and other regions has resulted in modest competition for land suitable for long-rotation crops and a limited supply of sustainable timber.

The company currently has over 30,000 hectares of plantation forestry land in Ghana and Sierra Leone, West Africa, secured on long-term lease agreements, and is currently in the latter stages of securing further land adjoining the company’s current plantations to bring each plantation up to about 20,000 hectares.

Andrew Collins, one of the company’s founders and its CEO says: “Tropical climates in emerging markets have high biological growth rates, ensuring that trees grow and reach maturity quickly, as well as low land and operating costs – this means that countries in West Africa such as Ghana and Sierra Leone can be extremely competitive and profitable for the production of sustainable timber.”

Over the next five years the volume of timber annually reaching maturity on the company’s plantations will increase, thus allowing for increased solid wood product production. As a result. the company’s revenues are expected to continue to grow in parallel with such wood-flows.

“Plywood production will come on stream soon, with the expectation of selling the products largely to the local market, but also the export markets,” said Mr Collins, adding that at the moment the company exports the veneer layers to several countries in Asia.

Wood veneer is the principal component part in the manufacture of plywood, forming the layers of wood that are glued together to create a finished plywood panel. Over the last two years Miro has established and operated a veneer factory, peeling logs harvested from the company’s plantation (principally eucalyptus and gmelina species most suitable for veneer and hence plywood). Having designed, built and commissioned this factory Miro then increased production to a triple-shift operation (22 hours per day) proving its ability to consistently produce to standard.

Sustainable growth

As a plantation forestry company, Miro is a significant net absorber of atmospheric carbon, developing new plantations on degraded and bare areas of land. The company mixes commercial plantation forestry with the protection and regeneration of indigenous tree species and the promotion of bio-diversity and environmentally sustainable land-use management.

Miro Forestry aims to conform to high environmental, ethical, financial and social standards, and to maintain international forestry certification on all its plantations. “We are very much focused on delivering not only economic benefits but also social and environmental benefits. The fact that our plantations are Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™) certified, meaning that we voluntarily comply with this international high standard of responsible forest management, is really important to us,” said Mr Collins.

“Supporting the development of local communities is part of our philosophy. Miro Forestry’s community development strategy includes education, access to clean water and alternative livelihood programs. Our mission for community development is to help communities help themselves.”

He explained that in the last few years, the company has increased its focus on agricultural projects, food security and commercial smallholder forestry. “We have embarked on a smallholder programme where we support local growers. They can get seedlings from us, and are provided with guidance and assistance to grow them at their own farms. They can then sell the mature trees to us for a pre-determined price. This initiative we hope will significantly support re-forestation and we target results as good as those achieved with similar projects in Vietnam and India.”

New direction

Having successfully planted and developed the plantation for over 10 years, Miro is building its industrial capacities as its forests will soon produce a strong and steady flow of wood to be converted into higher value-added products such as plywood and poles. In 2020, the company continues to be in investment mode – the veneer production facility is currently being expanded and its Ghana plywood factory is being constructed for commissioning in 2021, with a view to being replicated at a later stage in Sierra Leone and potentially elsewhere thereafter.

“Whilst maintaining the quality of our plantations, we are now focused on rapidly developing our timber processing operations to develop into a vertically integrated, profitable, timber products company, with a major focus on plywood for the local, regional and export markets. Plywood will be our core product,” said Mr Collins.

“We have certain new members on our Board of Directors, an international team of experienced professionals, that have come to help drive the transformation of the company from what we were – mainly a plantation forest business – to having wood processing capability, and we expect a big ramp-up in terms of our industrial operations.”

Coupled with the company’s high management standards, the Directors believe the company is extremely well-positioned to continue delivering good returns to shareholders. “Over the next five years, we need to scale the operation up and would be looking at some point at selling a ready-made business to plywood or similar trade group. Sustainable economic return, while promoting the development of local communities, will remain our key goals,” concluded Mr Collins.

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