Forestry minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday told lawmakers the authorities will investigate and establish the total volumes and value of rosewood exported over recent years.
He said this when responding to United Democratic Front parliamentarian Apius !Auchab who wanted to know how much the country has lost in recent years in monetary terms while it has been faced with the growing issue of raw rosewood timber being exported to foreign markets.
An astronomic amount of the country’s raw timber has over the years been exported to Asia, mainly China and Vietnam.
This is despite the Forest Act of 2001 prohibiting the export of unprocessed forest produce, including semi-processed planks.
Shifeta said the ministry is in the process of reviewing the Forest Act of 2001 and its regulations.
Through such exercise, Shifeta said, they are putting in place clear definitions for what constitutes processed, unprocessed, semi-processed timber. ‘’
“It is unfortunate that this grey area exists due to the fact that ‹processed› is not defined in the current Act and its regulations,” he said, adding that it is regrettable that this loophole has been exploited by harvesters in recent years.
This, he added, is also one of the reasons why the ministry issued a press statement in August this year clarifying in no uncertain terms that no export permits would be issued for any unprocessed or semi-processed timber except for research, education, cultural or scientific disease identification as stated in regulation 12(3) of the Act.
He said the lack of a definition for what constitutes ‹processed› timber therefore makes it difficult to estimate the total rosewood illegally exported as some of this is likely to have been processed when exported, while other consignments may have been semi-processed or un-processed.
On what the ministry has put in place at promoting the sustainable utilisation of timber and forest resources as well as stimulating lasting and sustainable economic growth and employment creation in the country, Shifeta said the process is being carried out on multiple fronts and in full collaboration with a number of other key stakeholders.
Firstly, he said, the ministry took the difficult decision to suspend the harvesting, transportation, marketing and export of timber on 26 November 2018.
The main reason for this, he said, was to ensure the resources, which are scarce and so precious to Namibia, are utilised on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all the Namibians, both present and future.
“I am pleased to report to this august House that the vast majority of illegal operations have been brought to an end and that the situation in the north-eastern regions is now under control,” he said. Shifeta also updated parliament on the establishment of a local furniture factory in Kavango West as a means to add value to the country’s resources.
According to Shifeta, once completed the factory is set to create 50 jobs.
“We continue to call on investors to take up opportunities in wood processing to feed the local market and are encouraging all OMAs (government offices, ministries and agencies) and businesses to buy locally produced timber as opposed to importing products such as doors, tables and chairs, so that we grow the industry and create jobs and economic opportunities for Namibian companies and individuals,” he said.