Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe timber exports are expected to grow 19 percent this year despite most of the products being fairly expensive on regional markets. Zimbabwe is expected to earn $25 million in export revenue from timber and pole sales from about $21 million last year, chief executive of Timber Producers Mr Federation Darlington Duwa said last week.
The country is mainly exporting transmission poles to Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique for their rural electrification. It is also exporting sawn timber for construction to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.
“Our input costs are relatively higher so we are not that competitive but we are expecting export revenue to be around 44 percent of the industry’s total revenue,” said Mr Duwa.
At peak in 2001, Zimbabwe exported timber products worth about $137 million and was looking at increasing sales in the short to medium term driven by improved efficiencies resulting from ongoing retooling by major local timber companies, said Mr Duwa.
The forestry industry contributes about 3 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, according to an assessment by Food Agriculture Organization, an arm of the United Nations.
However, this does not include benefits derived by the nation and communities from various timber and non-timber forest products and services that are not captured in the national accounts despite their increasing importance in rural welfare.
TPF chairman Dr Daniel Sithole told The Herald Business that most companies have managed to increase exports as a result of the incentives introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last year.
“The domestic market is being driven by housing development, agro-forestry and command agriculture because people are fencing their farms but we have also witnessed growth in exports particularly to Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi,” said Dr Sithole.
Dr Sithole, who is also chief executive of Allied Timbers Zimbabwe, which controls 60 percent of the country’s commercial forests said the timber industry had not capitalised heavily since about 2002, and required a massive injection of at least $100 million.
Zimbabwe has been self-sufficient in terms in timber requirements since the 1970’s, satisfying its construction, furniture and paper needs and exporting a surplus.
Prior to that, the country mainly imported most of its timber needs from Latin America.
Dr Sithole said the Timber Producer Federation had resumed periodic environmental audits to assess the level of replanting by the members and his company was targeting a minimum hectarage of at least 2 000 per annum for the next five years.