Shortage of Timber: SA Develops Strategy to Sustain Sawmilling Sector

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The need for all stakeholders to participate in ensuring that South Africa’s sawmilling sector thrives in the face of shortage of timber has been stressed by the Executive Director of Sawmilling South Africa, Mr Roy Southey, at a workshop to discuss the development of a strategy for the sawmilling industry that was hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) in Pretoria on Thursday, 02 March 2017.

According to Southey, the sawmilling sector’s growth has the ability to grow big corporations, create jobs and boost the economy.

“We need to respond to the shortage of resources. If unlocked, the potential of this industry can take the development of South Africa forward through job creation. The shrinking of resources in forestry is one major challenge that needs to be addressed by both government and the private sector. The expansion of the forestry, putting better use of the current resources and looking beyond the borders of South Africa can turn around the sector for the better,” he said.

Southey proposed the exploration of eucalyptus as an alternative resource to the industry and cited that it has shorter lead times and rotation cycles positioning it much better than the current resources.

The Director of Forestry Based Industries at the dti, Ms Tafadzwa Nyanzunda said that the department was working with the industry to develop a comprehensive wood processing strategy and various other initiatives that will assist in the recapitalisation of the aging machinery as well as improve productivity in the sector.

“We encourage the industry to take advantage of the dti incentives schemes in a bit to grow the industry and economy. We had a challenge of minimal uptake of the dti’s Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme from the sawmilling industry before. Amongst other things is a targeted sector incentive scheme,” she said.

Nyanzunda highlighted that the importance of the sawmilling industry to the South African economy cannot be over emphasised. Therefore, it was paramount for the industry to continue the work they had started with government of developing the strategy of the sawmilling industry.

Delegates participated in the discussions with the aim of seeing the sector being competitive and growing. Participants agreed that resources in the industry were a challenge and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. There was a need for developing strong relations with leading forestry research faculties and institutes, and development of a comprehensive strategy to increase access to export markets as well as promotion of wood culture.

The review of the Wood Foundation Institution to make it more effective, strengthening of research capacity for sawmilling industry elevation of the sawmilling industry to include wood processing and raising funds to assist saw millers invest in newer machinery were some of the issues that delegates agreed to focus their attention on.

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