The Zambian government has lifted its ban on trade in Mukula logs on condition that the logs are processed within a radius of 100 km from where they are harvested. Sawmillers, however, are demanding a complete revocation of the export moratorium.
Sources in the Ministry of Lands close to the decision, said the conditional lifting of the year-long export ban was aimed at encouraging value-addition.
“We have already written to a number of licensed sawmillers allowing them to harvest and process the Mukula tree within their concession areas,” said a source who sought anonymity.
But the Zambia National Association of Sawmillers (ZNAS) President William Bwalya said locals lacked the machinery and capacity to do meaningful value-addition.
“Local sawmillers are only able to do primary processing, which involves the milling of logs into boards for making furniture. We need to export to markets such as China that have proper value-adding machinery,” Bwalya said.
Last year, Zambia imposed an export moratorium on all timber species, including Mukula trees, and brought in the army to intensify patrols. In the wake of the ban, more than US$20 million worth of Mukula logs have been seized by law enforcement agencies.
Notably, the conditional lifting of the export moratorium is set against the backdrop of a surge in illegal trade in the endangered tree species despite the export ban.
To highlight, a fortnight ago, more than 4 000 logs were seized with several arrests in connection with illegal trade. At the time, Minister of Lands Jean Kapata alleged foreign syndicates were behind the surge in the illegal trade of Mukula logs.