Natural forests harvesting review

December 31, 2010

The tension has been rising in the southern Cape since SANParks announced that it had suspended harvesting of timber from the Southern Cape natural forests, which it has managed on behalf of government since 2005. The timber harvested by SANParks is the lifeblood of some 40 South African furniture manufacturers and timber traders, many of which are family businesses going back several generations.

Percheron horses
Slipping logs out of the forest with Percheron horses.


In the past, the timber that was selectively harvested from the forests by SANParks was sold at public auctions held twice a year. However, in November this year (2010), there was no action and hence no timber.

Instead, SANParks issued a notice in November calling for expressions of interest from the private sector as a first step to establishing a new system for harvesting, extracting and making timber available to the public.

A number of furniture manufacturers who depend on the timber from the southern Cape forests have set up the Southern Cape Timber Buyers' Co-operative in a bid to secure the rights to harvest the timber, which they propose to auction through an independent party.

However, some furniture makers are concerned that if the harvesting and auctioning goes to public tender, it will fall into the hands of big business interests, and the small businesses that depend on that timber for their raw materials would lose out.

Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa, General Manager of the Garden Route National Park, told SA Forestry magazine that the decision was made to stop harvesting mainly due to financial constraints.

"It should be noted that SANParks is still committed to availing the timber to the industry. The physical harvesting operation is only a single action in a bigger suite of actions that constitutes timber yield regulation."

She said that the harvesting of indigenous timber from the GRNP has been identified as a possible private/public partnership to be entered into between SANParks and a private party.

"Expressions of interest were invited in November. The next step will be to determine the viability of the expressions of interest, and thereafter a formal tender process will be undertaken. It is envisaged that the process will be concluded within the first half of 2011."

Published in December 2010

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