U.S. ambassador to Fiji, Gibson Guitars CEO, among attendees at launch of Fiji Pure Mahogany brand, mandatory compliance protocol; brand is being filed in 28 countries

SUVA, Fiji , April 30, 2012 (press release) – Representatives from U.S. Government, Gibson Guitars and Hardwood Manufacturers Association Attend Launch Event

Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama led the launch of the branding and mandatory compliance protocol process for Fiji Pure Mahogany, which ensures sustainability, legality, and the socially responsible use of this new hardwood brand. Fiji Pure Mahogany will also fill the global need for an exceptional quality of legally and sustainably harvested mahogany.

The brand is being filed in approximately 28 countries throughout the world to protect the intellectual property rights for the first brand to be beneficially owned by a sovereign nation—Fiji. This brand and the mandatory and enforced protocol will ensure compliance with the numerous environmental laws, including the United States Lacey Act.

"The development of the Fiji Pure Mahogany brand will go toward maximizing returns for all major stakeholders in a sustained manner and most importantly the present and future generations of the people of Fiji," said Prime Minister Bainimarama. "But we must establish a foundation for Fiji Pure Mahogany that is credible, that is trusted, and that the indigenous landowners, consumers, businesses and governments around the world respect."

Attendees at the event, which took place at the Sustainable Mahogany Industries factory in Fiji (the first company granted a license to use the Fiji Pure Mahogany brand) included: United States Ambassador to Fiji Frankie Reid; Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitars; Pembroke Jenkins, past President of the U.S. Hardwood Manufacturers Association; Sustainable Mahogany Industries owner John Wagner; and members of the Fijian landowning units.

Attendees toured the entire processing facilities, witnessing first-hand the protocols governing chain of custody for Fiji Pure Mahogany.

"The Fiji Pure Mahogany brand is a win for both our countries, and it is a win for the planet," said U.S. Ambassador Reed. In this day and age, environmental stewardship is more important than ever.... Here in Fiji, we're taking a great step forward."

Ambassador Reed also commented on the socially responsible contributions Fiji Pure Mahogany is making to Fijian workers, in particular women, who have high-quality jobs. Ambassador Reed commented after the tour: "You can sense when employees are treated well and a company is well managed. And that is certainly the feeling I got when I've been out here."

The Bainimarama Government has been working diligently to create this new standard for the mahogany industry. In March 2010, the Fijian Government passed the Mahogany Industry Development Decree, which made Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited a forestry management company, and established the Mahogany Industry Council to license mahogany purchasers and sawmill operators, and direct the development of the industry.

Only four years ago, Fiji re-planted zero mahogany trees; today, more than 1,000 hectares of mahogany have been replanted.

The Mahogany Industry Licensing & Branding Decree was passed on 13 December 2011. This Decree established the chain of custody protocols; harvesting code of practice; minimum production and packaging standards; inspections and audits standards; certificate of legality standards; safety standards; and penalties for violations of the protocol.

Filing of appropriate legal recognition of the Fiji Pure Mahogany brand is underway in 28 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, and Hong Kong.

Currently, Fiji has committed to sales of the sustainable volumes of grades 1 and 2 mahogany to Sustainable Mahogany Industries Ltd., which produces the bodies and necks of Gibson Guitars. Applications for licenses to purchase Grades 3, 4, and 5 mahogany are currently being reviewed.

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in remarks at the event: "As we create value in this brand by making a product that is sustainable and socially responsible, we will also be creating jobs for people in Fiji, creating revenue for the Government of Fiji, and creating smiles on the part of customers worldwide, knowing that Fiji Pure is doing product the right way—in terms of the quality of the process and the socially sustainable management of the process."

The move by the Fijian Government to create this much-needed mahogany brand standard has been roundly praised as unique and welcomed. Corruption and mismanagement of mahogany resources around the world has led to a breakdown in the supply chain. Fiji is positioned to fill the void.

"The Fijian Government is taking bold steps in ensuring that its mahogany resource is both legally harvested and sustainably managed," said Pem Jenkins, president and owner of Turn Bull Lumber Company and Oceania Hardwoods, LLC, who spoke at the event. "This is important to world lumber markets and this effort should make Fiji the leading producer of legal Genuine Mahogany in the world."

SOURCE Republic of Fiji


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