Timber traders are divided over the recent directive by the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki that 70 per cent of the soft wood from government-owned plantations should be sold through an auction.
The government under the Big Results Now (BRN) says through the new arrangement, it would generate more than Sh. 38 billion a year from the forestry sector.
But speaking in Moshi, the chairperson of the Northern Forestry Industries Association (Nofia) Anthony Tesha said the auction plan would not work as anticipated.
Under it, timber industries were to buy the soft wood from the auctions instead of sourcing them directly from the plantations.
"This (auction) system was introduced in the past and involved wood from teak and sandals plantations. But it did not work", he told reporters.
Mr. Tesha, without elaborating, said the system would be counter-productive because it can lead to indiscriminate felling of trees. He urged the government to abandon the idea.
The Nofia official warned that if the system is adopted, more than 3,000 people would be rendered jobless. He added that it was not longer logical for timber producers to buy soft wood from the state plantations because already the government has increased royalty on wood by 33 per cent.
Nofia is an association of over 100 timber dealers in Arusha, Tanga and Kilimanjaro regions. According to the chairperson of the association, the dealers are paying Sh. 40,000 to Sh. 61,000 per cubic metre as duty to the government.
Another timber dealer Mr. Jonas Swai said if the new system proposed recently by the Natural Resources minister is implemented , the government would lose heavily in revenues it currently collects.
At present the state collects Sh. 50 million from Nofia members and if timber had to be sourced through auctions, the revenue would drop substantially. The official could not elaborate.
He further warned that BRN should seek to expand the forest plantations instead of pressing for introduction of selling of soft wood to timber dealers through auction. "We should stick to the old system", Mr. Swai pointed out.