Government has snubbed timber producers’ request for a special permit to resume their operations in Viphya Plantation.
In an interview on Tuesday, Reformed Timber Millers Union president Paul Nthambazale said sawyers, transporters, vendors and other businesspeople say the ban on producing timber in the forest has disrupted their livelihoods.
The union of 35 cooperatives of timber producers is worried with government’s delay to allow them to return to the forest, he said.
Nthambazale said many businesspersons feel the closed season was meant to punish them.
“Some people contemplated holding demonstrations, but we value dialogue. We can’t be fighting government when it is the same government that has to help us. We have to do things in an orderly manner,” he said.
The sealing of the forest has pushed up timber prices.
In Mzuzu, a 2×6 plank now costs K7000, up from K3000 when the forest was open to timber producers.
But director of forestry Clement Chilima said government cannot issue a special permit because the Reformed Timber Millers Union has no licence.
He explained: “Government is processing a new agreement. Once this is finalised, we will have to agree on conditions of operating in the forest. The agreement that is there is for the old Timber Millers Union [TMU] which we were about to terminate.”
According to Nthambazale, the renamed union is using the licence of TMU which he formerly led.
TMU fell out with government on allegations of overharvesting, failure to replant trees and delays to settle debts totalling over K100 million. n