Long-term production of timber • Profitability • Innovation • reputation
The South African Forestry Industry
With 1.23 million hectares of plantations the industry in South Africa is relatively small in extent, but it is highly productive producing about 17 millions tons of round wood per annum. South Africa’s Forest Industry is a multi-billion Rand Industry, responsible for 9.8% of the country’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 4.9% of South Africa’s manufacturing GDP. With an export value of over R38. 4 billion, it is a key contributor to South Africa’s economy. About half of the plantations are hardwood trees, mainly Eucalyptus and Acacia and the other half comprises softwood – mainly pines.
Only 0.5 % of South Africa is covered by Natural forests and the harvesting of these is restricted to very few strictly controlled licenses.
About 55% of timber goes into the pulp sector dominated by 2 global vertically integrated companies, Sappi and Mondi, with a number of pulp Mills. There is also a substantial export market of wood chips to the Far East through TWK and NCT forestry, servicing a large number of farmers and smallholders.
The export pulp sector is the main driver for forest certification but there are a number of smaller export markets requiring certification, including saw logs, charcoal and other specialized products. Currently certification in South Africa is almost exclusively restricted to large-scale timber growers. Access of smallholders to certification has, up to now been very difficult, despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly important. With South Africa’s land reform programme, communities, smallholders* and emerging timber growers* are playing a growing role in timber production.
There are a number of global competitors for the current pulp based markets that could force South Africa to diversity its product range and look more widely for markets. This coupled with South Africa’s growing unemployment crisis could motivate the industry and government to respond by incentivising small and medium scale enterprises to enter the timber processing market and promote local and inter regional trade. This highlights the need for a certification system and approach that is accessible to smaller forestry operations and appropriate for the developing world.