24 March 2006

Zimbabwe: Fires Wreak Havoc On Timber Plantations

Harare — BORDER Timbers Limited has said it will continue to face shortages of mature timber for the next five years due to numerous fires that have disrupted harvesting operations.

"Harvesting operations were disrupted by numerous fires in Chimanimani estate while the shortages of mature timber in the company's plantations also adversely affected the harvesting operations," the company said in a statement accompanying its results for the 12 months to December 31 2005. "At Chimanimani estates 3 000 hectares were damaged by arson fires, which were started by illegal squatters in the estate and this will have a disastrous effect on the availability of timber in the country as a whole," the firm said.

Timber shortages were expected to continue for the next five years. This was likely to force the firm to source timber from other players in the industry. The inability of the forest operations to supply adequate volumes of logs and sawmills has lead to a decline in production. Erratic and unscheduled power outages also contributed to the reduction of production at sawmills. Border Timbers Limited posted a profit after tax of $59,6 billion from $27,6 billion t he prior year.

Turnover for the group increased by 425 percent to $92,1 billion from $15,3 billion the prior year and operational costs, which include $62 billion losses in respect of fire-damaged trees, increased by 493 percent. Paulington factory performed well despite challenges in log deliveries from the estates and was expected to perform better if deliveries improve. Export demand for the company looked strong while the local market remained weak.

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