The government on Monday imposed strict rules on timber exports after the removal of the transportation moratorium.
Part of the new conditions include local timber manufacturers being given first priority to buy the already harvested timber.
However, if the capacity of the local market is inadequate to absorb the already harvested timber, the owners will be allowed to export the surplus. These conditions come after Cabinet took a decision to lift the timber transportation moratorium at its last Cabinet meeting of the year, whose outcomes were announced at a media briefing on Monday. Agriculture executive director Percy Misika said part of the conditions to export timber include no harvesting of fresh trees during this time, that all logs should be loaded in the presence of ministry officials, and that first preference will be given to local processors.
Additionally, officials from both the forestry and environment ministries may be supported by other law-enforcement agencies such as the police while conducting their duties with regards to timber exports, and the forestry officials will also inspect any wood factory to obtain the required information from such institutions.
"Timber at Walvis Bay will be allowed to be exported if all documentation is in order, that is, if the information on the transportation permit and the harvesting permit is consistent. Any timber at Walvis Bay that does not have proper documentation for which police cases have been opened will not be exported, but will be confiscated and disposed of by the government through public auctions," Misika explained.
Both processed and unprocessed timber may be exported from Namibia to any destination, but processed timber in the final stage of use may be exported under the export licence issued by forestry officials in the country.
He noted that the timber will only be loaded from the forest during the day, and never at night, adding that officials will be stationed at checkpoints such as Mururani Gate, Bravo Gate and Rooidag Gate to check the movement of timber.
"Timber will only leave the country once all the required documents are obtained from the relevant authorities, namely forestry, customs and excise. Officials may stop any vehicles loaded with timber to request for appropriate papers. Timber coming from other countries may be allowed to be processed in Namibia, or to be in transit through Namibia, and this is to be done with close supervision of forestry officials and other relevant authorities like customs and the environment ministry", Misika added.
During the media briefing on Monday, information minister Stanley Simaata said Cabinet had endorsed the disposal of the harvested timber in the Kavango West, Kavango East, and Zambezi regions through both local and international markets with immediate effect.
"The decision was taken on the basis of the outcry by the affected communities, and the fact that the timber in question may deteriorate if not timeously disposed of," the minister stated.
He stressed the need to add value to the raw timber, saying there is a long-term strategy by the forestry and environment ministries in collaboration with the industrialisation ministry to develop capacity.
"But I need to qualify that it is not only timber, but it is right across all raw materials so that we can create sustainable industries in our respective localities," he continued. Deputy agriculture minister Anna Shiweda said there are 75 000 timber logs which were legally harvested, in addition to the 25 000 logs in storage at Walvis Bay. She reiterated that timber, similar to other resources, should be utilised to benefit Namibians. Her ministry thus applied its rules before the environmental laws came into effect.
"The land reform ministry allocated vast land to farmers in Kavango West, Kavango East and Zambezi for either crop farming or livestock production. But we discovered that these pieces of land had timber that needed to be harvested, so these farmers cleared it for agricultural production.
"The forestry directorate then issued permits to these farmers to harvest, and officials went on the ground and marked trees that needed harvesting," she said.