Micheal Peters – edit

March/April Newsletter: An exemplary performance from an essential sector during extraordinary times

I write this in the wake of our President extending the COVID-19 lockdown by 14-days.

My initial reaction was to draft a piece on “the impact this will have on our Sector” but we have already shared those potential impacts with members in the form of the rapid analysis which we produced at the request of the Presidency. We hope that analysis will provide guidance to the President in providing further relief for our Sector and other sectors, which can operate at low risk and in the process, protect as much employment and economic output as possible.

So instead, I have chosen to take a brief moment to reflect on and acknowledge the enormity of life and business over the past 14-days of lockdown and how as a Sector, we have adapted and come together to support the national and international crisis, at a time when South Africa and the world needs this the most.

Representing a Sector that provides such a vast array of day-to-day essentials, as well as the products of the future, has always filled me with pride, but never more so than during the midst of this crisis. Forestry has been given Essential Sector status for good reason, our forests are the feedstock for so many vital everyday essentials, and COVID-19 necessities needed to keep South Africa and its citizens going during these difficult days.

Yet without the tireless dedication of the men and women in our Sector, our trees would remain trees and our country and others in our international markets, would be without the tissues, toilet paper, wipes, food products, masks, medicines, cleaning products, agricultural and energy inputs, which our Industry provides.

The determination that the Sector has shown, from large-scale vertically integrated companies, to the small-scale growers and other SMEs, often in the face of great adversity, has been inspirational. It is the foresters, processors, manufacturers, technicians, machine operators, drivers, the thousands of committed individual suppliers of goods and services throughout the various forestry value chains, who have selflessly continued to go to work, to supply these essential products and services and in the process, support the national and international crisis.

People have continued to do this, while balancing the demands of home life and more demanding working conditions. Within FSA, our small but deeply invested team of staff and service providers, have worked all hours of the day and night and over the weekends, to ensure that the progress and challenges are clearly communicated to our members and to our partners in the various value chains.

While we are going to feel the impacts of COVID-19 long after restrictions are lifted, seeing how the Sector has come together during these first few weeks fills me with hope, pride and encouragement. Forestry is a Sector that has always adapted, evolved and endured and I am certain we will continue to do so.

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