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Nicaragua Wood Sector Launches Web Portal with IFC LAC SME Facility


In Washington, D.C.
Paul Melton

Phone: +1.202.473.7349

E-mail:
pmelton@ifc.org

Adriana Gómez

Phone: +1.202.458.5204

E-mail:
agomez@ifc.org


Managua, Nicaragua, July 22, 2004—The International Finance Corporation’s Latin America and Caribbean Small and Medium Enterprise Facility (LAC SME Facility) has launched a web portal for the wood sector in Nicaragua:  www.maderasnicaragua.com.  This on-line resource contains a wide array of information to help promote exports and investment in the sector.  Included in the portal are local forestry laws, product catalogues from local producers, information regarding investment opportunities, and specialized publications.  The portal is linked to the IFC SME toolkit, which provides basic business resources for small and medium enterprises.

Nicaraguan micro and SMEs account for 96.7% of all Nicaraguan firms, including almost all wood product/furniture companies in the country. Nicaragua is host to a rich forestry reserve boasting many of the most exotic and prized timbers, but very little forest is certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.  Moreover, very few producers currently have export capacity.  


The portal is part of the LAC SME Facility’s comprehensive wood sector-strengthening program in Central America.  The program is aligned with the World Bank’s Revised Forestry Strategy which emphasizes harnessing the potential of forests to reduce poverty, integrating forests into sustainable economic development, and protecting vital environmental services and values.  Through this program, the LAC SME Facility aims to promote sustainable forestry practice, increasing the amount of certified wood available for manufacturing.  Concurrently, the Facility is working with Nicaraguan furniture producers to promote the use of certified wood and increase exports of certified wood products.


For wood producers and manufacturers in Nicaragua, the portal is an important tool for reaching international markets and investors.  Moreover, as the first such web site in the country, maderasnicaragua.com has sparked interest from other companies in developing similar sites for their industries.  According to Matthew Falkiner of Exchange, SA, a furniture producer, “[The portal] shows the huge potential the sector has and should inspire both the international wood community and local providers to build mutually profitable relations.  We welcome the initiative and have already given the address to our customers to give them a wider vision of the market.”


Steve Gretzinger, Latin American Coordinator of World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest and Trade Network noted the portal’s value in promoting sustainable forestry practice.  "IFC's assistance in developing this on-line resource is key for positioning Sustainable Forest Management and Commerce as a viable economic development and conservation tool for Nicaragua.  WWF looks forward to collaborating with the IFC on this initiative and assisting both community and corporate wood producers, as well as buyers, to support sound forest management (and counter illegal logging) via their purchase of products from producers who have made clear environmental commitments."


While the website was developed in conjunction with an international consulting firm, it will be maintained by INPYME  (Instituto Nicaragüense de Apoyo a la Pequeña y Mediana Industria), the Nicaraguan Government Agency for SMEs.  By handing off responsibility for the website’s ongoing maintenance and evolution to a key local stakeholder, the Facility is working to build local capacity and increase sustainability.  Harold Rocha, Director of INPYME, stated, “The portal will play an important role in the forestry strategy and will increase the competitiveness of the wood sector because it's a source of information for possible international customers and local actors.”


About IFC

The mission of IFC (www.ifc.org) is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. From its founding in 1956 through FY03, IFC has committed more than $37 billion of its own funds and arranged $22 billion in syndications for 2,990 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC's worldwide committed portfolio as of FY03 was $16.8 billion for its own account and $6.6 billion held for participants in loan syndications.

About IFC LAC SME Facility

IFC's Latin America and Caribbean Small and Medium Enterprise Facility, headquartered in Lima, Peru, promotes private sector development by supporting small and medium enterprises, thus contributing to job creation and poverty reduction in the region.  Its areas of focus are strengthening SME competitiveness; making it easier for SMEs to do business by simplifying business regulations; broadening access to finance; and fostering indigenous and socially responsible enterprises.