Harare — THE Forestry Commission has resumed timber saw milling operations to keep abreast with developments in the hardwood timber industry as well as to boost its income streams, a senior official with the commission has said.
"The commission has spent about $380 million to date in setting up mobile sawmilling operations in Gwaai forest, situated in Matabeleland North Province," Mr Dzidzai Maruzane, the corporate affairs manager, told Herald Business in an interview this week.
"The venture will generate approximately 100 jobs when fully operational," he said, adding that it was expected that most of the sawmill employees would be drawn from the communities around the province.
The project was initiated in November 2004 and was expected to be commissioned soon.
When fully operational, it will consume approximately 9 600 cubic metres of timber in raw form and produce approximately 3 500 cubic metres of rough sawn timber valued at approximately $7 billion per year.
Although the timber is currently being sold on the local market, the organisation intends to venture into value addition to facilitate exports of finished and semi-finished products.
Raw and unprocessed timber exports are currently prohibited under the "prohibition of exportation of raw and unprocessed timber Statutory Instrument 112 of 2001".
Apart from providing locals with jobs the project would assist in guaranteeing at least 300 jobs in the timber processing industry as well as in the timber products retail sector.
"Although the main species being milled now is teak, the Forestry Commission intends to venture into the milling of all other commercial hardwood timber, such as mukwa and mchibi," said Mr Maruzane.
The Forestry Commission manages close to 900 000 hectares of land under forests mainly in Matabeleland North province.
The organisation suspended timber-harvesting operations in the early 80s owing to logistical problems and perception of overcutting in the demarcated forest estate.
However, after thorough studies, timber-cutting operations resumed in the late 1990s and have been managed on a concession basis since then.