THE industrialization of the country and value addition of local products will go a long way in alleviating challenges faced in the timber processing industry, says Zambia National Association for Sawmillers (ZNAS) president William Bwalya.
Mr Bwalya said the process would also lead to employment creation and enhanced foreign exchange earnings.
He told the Daily Nation that President Edgar Lungu’s inaugural speech in which he talked about industrialization and value addition to products produced within Zambia provided hope for a broader foreign exchange base as it would make most sectors more productive.
Mr. Bwalya said the timber sector was ready for industrial revolution as spelt out by President Lungu because it was the first stop to diversifying the economy whose reliance on copper had adverse effects which the country could not cope with.
He said there was need for coordinated efforts towards achieving the policy pronouncements of President Lungu as Zambia was in need of an enhanced multi-sectoral development strategy that would stabilise the economy and stimulate growth of other sectors.
“It was gratifying to hear value addition coming out prominently from the President’s inaugural speech and we hope this will not remain as mere rhetoric. As ZNAS, we are ready to walk that talk but there are challenges on the way which require to be addressed.
“We started preaching value adding to timber and timber residue but we have had numerous challenges such as legal frameworks, policies and unattainable political statements. We hope this time things will work for us,” said Mr. Bwalya
And Mr. Bwalya disclosed that a high-powered delegation from Finland was in Zambia as part of stakeholders’ consultation on the status of the forestry sector in Zambia.
He said ZNAS had made submissions and recommendations on the development of Value Added Plants (VAP) at timber clusters especially in Lufwanyama and north of Chimwemwe in Kitwe.
ZNAS also called for continuous training in value addition to tap into the skills needed to propel the sector to desired levels.
“Chiefly, raw materials to use in the VAP are forest residue such as saw dust, branches, off-cuts and shorter round wood pieces in processing bio-briquettes and pellets as energy for cooking and heating.
“On a large scale, this form of energy can mitigate too much use of trees for charcoal burning. We also recommended the use of simple low cost wood seasoning equipment to add value to construction timber and lock into grading of timber for specified uses,” said Mr Bwalya.
He said at the moment timber was not graded, a situation which was not beneficial to both customers and producers of wood.