Wood chip exports and the challenges faced by private pulpwood farmers in Southern KwaZulu-Natal.
The South African forestry industry has contributed significantly to the economic growth of the country by the planting of trees and the processing of these trees for the export market. With the increased demand for wood chips, the wood chip industry is concerned that the plantation resource that is currently available may not be adequate to fulfil the production required for future wood chip export. The purpose of this study is to examine the trends in wood chips exports from the Port of Durban and to examine the stability and growth of private pulpwood production in Southern KwaZulu-Natal. The forestry pulp and paper sector and its related downstream manufacturing enterprises is an important part of the KwaZulu-Natal economy. Eucalyptus and wattle timber are used to manufacture pulp and are exported in the form of wood chips. The Durban Wood Chipping facility is aimed at the export of wood chips from Durban to pulp and paper manufacturers in Japan. The methodology used in this study included questionnaires and semi-structured interviews that were held with the respondents involved in the forestry industry. A questionnaire was sent electronically to 119 participants being the total population of timber farmers that supply NCT Durban Wood Chips. A total of 33 respondents completed the questionnaire resulting in a 27.73% response rate. Three key personnel, with a strong forestry background, belonging to NCT Forestry Cooperative limited were selected as participants for the qualitative aspect of the study. The findings of the study showed that wood chips exports have increased from the Durban facility between 2006 and 2011. This came from recent research literature as well as data from NCT Durban Wood Chips (PTY) LTD. Dominant challenges faced by the farmers were land reform, transportation costs and municipal rates. Land claims, road infrastructure, economics (cost vs income) and demand for timber were the most challenging factors affecting private timber production into the future. The qualitative and quantitative results confirm that timber production is definitely increasing and hence contributing to stability of private pulpwood production in Southern KwaZulu-Natal.