Government has suspended the issuance of new timber licences to tree harvesters as one way of protecting the country’s forest reserves.
The decision comes at a time most forest reserves in the country have been depleted for timber, firewood and charcoal making.
During the 2015/2016 fiscal year, government awarded 36 timber export licences and 100 export permits to Raiply Malawi, Vizara Timber Plantation and various individuals for exporting timber products, according Malawi Government Annual Economic Report 2016.
According to the report, by April 4 2016, issuance of export licences and permits generated revenue amounting to K6.9 million, down from K8.5 million in 2015, representing an 18 percent decrease.
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka said Malawi has not been benefiting from its timber because they are being sold to foreigners at a lower price.
He said: “The trees in the forests such as Chikangawa, Zomba and Dedza are a business for government, but we have been selling them at give away prices. This is why many people from neighbouring countries descended on our forests such as Chikangawa and decimated them because our timber was cheap.”
Msaka said government will soon come up with new prices, and as that is being done, no new licences will be issued to tree harvesters both individuals and companies.
“It is baffling that a Forestry Department with all the trees that we had could still be failing to generate resources to run its operations and keep on begging from central government. This shows that we were not doing things right and we want to correct this anomaly,” he said.
“We are taking a business approach because we do not want to make our forestry products impossible to sell but they must be sold at reasonable prices. This ban will not be long but it must be respected.”
In recent times, there have cases of illegal logging of the country’s timber by unscrupulous traderswho smuggle it outside the country.
In 2015, the annual report said government issued eight licences and 547 export permits to China, Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana.