Forestry seeks to further support SA’s recovery
FSA is pleased to report that with governments support, through the PPGI COVID-19 Task team, we have managed to maintain the production of most of the forestry essential products and services. Companies producing masks, paper towels, paper and non-woven wipes, tissues, toilet paper, sanitary towels, tampons, medicines, cleaning and hygiene products, foodstuffs, farming and energy production, food and medical packaging, have been able to maintain production during this time, due to the continued supply of forest products used in all of those products and services. Our Industry is proud to have been able to play our part during this crisis and that in doing so, we have also been able to protect many of our jobs in the sector and limit some of the massive economic impact of this disaster, on the South African economy.
With the State’s plan to gradually restore production of low-risk economic activities, we have approached the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to request them to lift the restrictions on the production, distribution and sale of the few remaining forest products (below), not yet included in Essential Services. We have provided reasons against each product and also reiterated that in many cases, these products are already being produced in the same facilities that produce essential products, so the heightened risk reduction measures for COVID-19, are already in place.
Below are the remaining product lines and investments which could easily and safely be re-commissioned, and which would also assist the national cause.
- Paper – Schools, universities, book publishers, retailers, the Department of Basic Education and the PPGI leadership, have repeatedly expressed concerns about the shortage of standard A4 copier paper and paper for books. Most school and university learners are doing distance learning and while many outlets are still selling paper, the supply from our Industry has been halted. This production can be re-commissioned in the space of a few days.
- Sawntimber, engineered wood and board products – The State has announced a massive housing program to re-settle people out of informal settlements and this will require large amounts of timber, engineered wood and board products. As mentioned, some of these are still being produced but not sold (this will change following yesterday’s revised regulations for hardware stores but only for emergency repairs to homes). Production of these critical housing inputs can be ramped up immediately. The sawmilling industry have also developed high-quality prefabricated solutions, to assist in this major housing undertaking by the State.
- Poles – Many poles are still being produced for the transmission and distribution of electricity and to support agricultural output. There is once again no increased risk therefore in allowing other poles used in the construction, housing and general fencing sectors to continue.
- PPGI mega-investment projects – As you will be aware, we have numerous large-scale expansion projects under the PPGI, which have been halted during the lock down. Once again these are all without exception, being done by companies who already have advanced risk mitigation and control measures in place, and we have requested that these projects can commence once again. This will assist South Africa enormously in the economic recovery phase after the Covid 19 crisis, as we will be positioned to increase production dramatically and improve our international competitiveness as a consequence.
We will keep our members updated on the outcome of the request and any new developments pertaining to the extended lockdown via e-mail and the FSA Telegram Channel.