Harare — THE Forestry Commission will soon embark on a multi-billion-dollar expansion programme at its Matabeleland sawmill.
"We expect to increase production through the double shift system," Forestry Commission deputy director general for conservancy and extension Mr Lloyd Mubayiwa said this week. This will see 300 new jobs being created downstream for the surrounding community once the second plant becomes fully operational.
Revenue is also expected to increases to over $1,5 billion a week. Although the timber is currently being sold on the local market, the commission intends to venture into value addition to facilitate exports of finished or semi-finished products. Exports of raw timber are currently prohibited under the "prohibition of exportation of raw and unprocessed timber Statutory Instrument 1123 of 2001".
The Forestry Commission manages close to 900 000 hectares of land under forests mainly in Matabeleland Province. The commission suspended timber harvesting operations in early 80s owing to logistical problems and perceptions of overcutting in the demarcated forest estate. However, aft er thorough studies timber cutting operations resumed in the early 90s and have been managed on a concession basis since then.