08 March 2018 Read: 100
On Tuesday, 30 January, Forestry South Africa, Limpopo Group held their annual regional meeting at Magoebaskloof Hotel. The reports that were delivered by the committee covered challenges and achievements for the industry. Trevor Phillips, regional acting group chairman, focused on pine, including land use to date. Although there has been a drop in the land use for pine, which has been attributed to new avocados, kiwi’s in development and areas being converted to Eucalyptus. The major challenges threatening the industry are an increase in maximum temperatures, wind, lightening, wild animals, pests, fire, population increase, changes in sawmill practices and markets and theft. Theft remains a huge challenge and initiated the establishment groups such as the Tzaneen Timber Theft Forum and a more active approach within the industry and community.
Last year Diggersrest Timber Company invited the chief prosecutor to the area which has changed his perception on the situation. The police have thus become more informed about the exact challenges and are supporting and co-operating by, for example, immediately impounding stolen vehicles, however it remains imperative that all theft is reported and a case number is obtained. The objective of the TTTF is to employ a full time employee to check the dockets at the police station. Since this meeting it has been said to AgriBulletin that following their presentation in Tzaneen, Durban-based Holomatrix has taken an active interest in fighting this problem and is currently in discussion with FSA to establish their product as a sustainable and holistic solution across the agricultural sector.
In financial news, presented by Philip Day, FSA reported that the Sectoral Determination for 2017/18 would come into effect from 1 March 2018 and that the minimum wage is to increase by 5.6% to R3 169.19 per month (R731.41 per week, R146.28 per day & R16.25 per hour).
He reported further that FSA had submitted comments on the proposed National Minimum Wage and that they are working hand in glove with Agri SA. The NMW is set at R20.00 per hour to take effect from 1 May 2018 but Agriculture and Forestry will be 90% of this amount (i.e. R18.00 per hour). A National Minimum Wage Commission (NMWC) will be established to review the minimum wage adjustment every year but the NMW would trump those contained in Sectoral Determinations.
Forestry South Africa’s Business Development Director, Norman Dlamini, presented positive developments in skills development, woman in forestry, technology development and other projects and initiatives that show how important this organization is for South Africa’s growth and economy.
Currently the leading project is a chainsaw operators training initiative offering virtual training, and is supported by Husquvana (Sweden) and the APA Fund (Germany). Phase one of this project is expected to be complete by end of March 2018. Forestry South Africa, in partnership with the University of KZN, has developed an industry specific grower’s winch.
FSA is also concentrating on closing the gap on skills focus and aided in receiving more than 50 bursaries for students for Saasveld and a few students going to other institutions (i.e. fire training). FSA also approached the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform with regards to establishing a Forestry training academy, unfortunately their interest has not been met with the same enthusiasm.
In the research arena, Dr Heath reported that FSA has approved a new R+D Framework, in which FSA will only fund research platforms and research projects which are common to all of FSA members. The focus area at present is forest protection and sustainability (water, chemical use, climate change modeling) with the main focus on outcomes of the sustainability of the industry.
Despite the fact that it is evident to all role players in this industry, that the government has not yet grasped the importance of the forestry industry, Executive Director, Michael Peter ended this meeting with a very important and positive message. “2017 will go down in history as the year where the country’s democracy truly started to function as people came together for the first time since 1994 to call for clean governance..”
Peter stated that in 2017 there was a total of 84% corporate tax non-compliance, which is said to be the highest ever, and is seen as sign of a country that is refusing to pay to a government that is not doing its job for the people as sworn to do. While the stronger currency will affect timber exports, it will also reduce the cost of imported inflation through factors like fuel and imported capital equipment.