By Nation Reporter
THE Zambia National Saw millers Association (ZNAS) has asked President Edgar Lungu to intervene and direct the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO) to reduce the stumpage price of timber to resuscitate the timber sector.
In a letter addressed to State House dated 14th June, 2016, ZNAS president William Bwalya said the current prices of timber charged by ZAFFICO were not cost reflective and were suffocating the sector as most stakeholders had been forced out of business, thereby making Zambians jobless.
Mr. Bwalya said under normal circumstances, the relationship between price and output was that even if prices went up, the output in terms of timber production was supposed to remain constant but said the current state of affairs was the opposite of that phenomenon as production was on the decline.
He said apart from the high prices of round wood timber by ZAFFICO, the decline in timber production had also mounted pressure on profitability, thereby pushing sawmillers out of business, adding that the only way out was for ZAFFICO to reduce prices if the sector was to thrive.
“Your Excellency, clearly, the round wood allocations are far below the economic levels and, in fact, to make such allocations is just as good as telling the sawmill operators to close their mills. It is an indisputable fact that no one can run a sawmill on an allocation of 35 cubic metres per month.
“The output has declined from 2013. The saw millers have been hit severely in 2015 and 2016.This is as a result of having higher average volumes yet, the output has been going down. It is a very irregular situation because we anticipate the output to be consistent over the years.
‘‘We request your intervention to have ZAFFICO reduce the price of round wood as the business has become unprofitable, forcing many out of it,” Mr. Bwalya said.
He said the timber industry, being the second largest after mining, had the ability to contribute immensely to the economy of the country if well harnessed and stressed the need for a reduction in the price of the commodity.
Mr Bwalya said saw millers were willing to meet President Lungu and air their grievances if given an opportunity as that was the only way towards addressing the problem.
“We have stated before and we shall say it again that the timber industry is the second largest after mining on the Copperbelt. Therefore, the decision to give such low allocations and at such huge pricing has the potential of leaving thousands of Zambians unemployed, resulting in increased poverty. There are also other social and political repercussions which we cannot afford to ignore.