A task team is set to be appointed by water affairs and forestry minister Lindiwe Hendricks to investigate the challenges facing the SA forestry production sector.
Speaking at the Forestry SA (FSA) AGM in Pietermaritzburg recently, said the sector’s growth, particularly from exports, is currently being hindered by a range of factors. These include the limit on land for afforestation; a lack of awareness of the economic potential of the forestry industry, especially by black people; stringent regulations on the issuing of licences for water usage; and a lack of financing for an industry in which dividends and profits take a long time to be realised.
Hendricks agreed to support industry efforts to raise its profile although the means to achieve this were still to be clarified. She also acknowledged the need for her department and the sector to work closely with the Department of Land Affairs to resolve land claims speedily. This, she said, would allow the sector to move forward with certainty on who the beneficiaries would be for rental income, contracting arrangements and industry support measures. She continued, “We also need to streamline the water licence application process so that it is shorter.
Consultation can take place with relevant government departments within a defined period, and full responsibility is given to DWAF (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry) to take a final decision on the issuing of water licences. Finally, we have recognised the need to undertake a much broader, and possibly countrywide, strategic environmental assessment to determine where new afforestation could take place.” F SA has agreed to submit comments to the department on what it felt should be included as terms of reference for the task team.
Hendricks said the outcomes of the task team’s investigations would contribute greatly to removing impediments facing the timber industry while also improving the growth of the forestry sector. “In giving my support to the process I look forward to seeing substantive transformation taking place in the industry – not just tinkering at the margins but a serious commitment to transformation, and implementing what has been agreed to in the Forestry Charter across the whole timber value chain,” said Hendricks, adding she would ensure all the instruments available to her department are used to encourage broad-based empowerment.