December newsletter – Forestry masterplan

The Forestry Sector Masterplan is one of a number that emerged from a call for action by President Cyril Ramaphosa to stimulate the economy.

Why prioritise the Forestry Sector?

The Forestry Sector contributes almost 25% to the agricultural GDP, with forestry products contributing at least 4.5% of South Africa’s total manufacturing GDP – making it among the top five sectors within manufacturing. In less than 10 years, export earnings have almost trebled, with the Sector providing a positive trade balance close to R10 billion. Furthermore, much of forestry operations are rurally based, making it a significant contributor to rural economies and social well-being. It is estimated that the Sector supports some 700 000 livelihoods. With land reform, if expedited and effectively implemented, potentially resulting in as much as 50% black and community ownership of land available for plantations.

Why a Masterplan?

The Masterplan is a high-level action plan that nevertheless provides detailed implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) plans. As such, it provides a solid basis from which delivery can proceed. It should be noted that while action-orientated, the Masterplan is still a plan, and constitutes just 10% of what needs to be done – provision still needs to be made for 90% of efforts and resources for implementation.

The primary objective of the Masterplan process, underpinned by the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) is to develop an agreed-upon set of actions, with time frames, that all stakeholders in a sector or value-chain commit to implementing for the benefit of the sector or value-chain.

The primary objective of the Forestry Masterplan is to increase investment, job and competitiveness, underpinned by greater inclusivity in the Forestry Sector, which will be applied across five subsectors of the Forestry value chain: 1. Primary sector, 2. Pulp and paper, 3. Sawn timber, 4. Board products, 5. Utility poles and treated products.

The seven key focus areas

Expanded forestry resource and maintenance/protection – the success of the Forestry Sector hinges on the ability of timber growers being able to supply sufficient raw material for present and future market demands. Current supply is already being outstripped by demand, with present and future demands set to expand exponentially, it is essential that the Sector bolsters its supply and protects its current resources from threats like fire, pests, diseases and criminal activities.

Transformation – the Forestry Sector offers a unique synergy between growth of the Sector and transformation – through progress in land reform, recapitalisation of State plantations (B&C and Exit) and the provision of significantly enhanced extension services and other forms of support to community and black businesses throughout the value chain.

Processing – the South African Forestry Sector is only as strong as the processing sector which ultimately needs to convert relatively low-value roundwood into forest products. The local timber processing sector must remain competitive in the international markets to beneficiate local roundwood supply originating and providing livelihoods in the rural economy.

Illegal timber and crime-related activities – are becoming a growing concern for the Forestry Sector, which due to its large land base finds it difficult to have sufficient resources to protect forestry assets from criminal activities encompassing a variety of illegal practices across the value chain. It is exacerbated by the justice system (from policing to sentencing) not appreciating the severity of the problem.

Research, development, innovation and skills development – the South African Forestry Sector is based on a long and rich history of sound research and development practices. However, the industry is currently faced with several challenges related to existing levels of public investment in RDI, as well as the development and retention of the necessary expertise and skills.

Key inhibitors – a variety of inhibitors facing the Forestry Sector have emerged, including water, with plantation forestry recognised as the only streamflow reduction activity and therefore requiring a water use licence; Genus Exchange Legislation; diesel refund exclusions; port costs and challenges around efficiencies, contamination, maintenance and turnaround time; transportation costs surrounding both road and rail; environmental impact assessments (EIA) for community plantation projects and small developments where it is a major stumbling block.

Institutional development

These will play different roles in contributing to the goal statement, with growth and improvement measured against several factors including investment, jobs, competitiveness and inclusiveness, although the Masterplan does have two headline targets:

  • R24,9 bn to be invested, of which R8,4 bn had already been invested at the time of finalising the Masterplan. A further R14 bn could follow pending the removal of some inhibitors, bringing the total investment to R38,9 bn.
  • 100,549 additional jobs of which the bulk will come from new afforestation (projected 60 265 jobs).

Targets the Sector looks forward to meeting.

For more details on the specifics of the Masterplan deliverables, click here, to download the Forestry Sector Masterplan in full.

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