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Constraints hamper Gabon’s timber exports

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Timber exports around the world have slowed down over the last two years due to a number of constraints. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Constraints hamper Gabon’s timber exports

According to the latest report by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) a number of constraints have slowed down production of timber in the central African country of Gabon.

According to several timber producers in Gabon, bad weather has made road transport difficult, especially in the south-east of the country. The ITTO states that although it is much cheaper to transport products by rail (especially now as fuel prices have increased) timber competes with manganese for space on goods trains and manganese producers are given priority.

With only one rail line and with manganese miners often using more than 100 wagon loads at a time, the competition for space is intense.

Operators in Gabon’s Special Economic Zone (GSEZ), where there are around 80 peeling units, are under stress due to weak demand in China as well as in India.

The GSEZ was started in 2010 as a joint venture between Olam International Ltd., the Republic of Gabon, and Africa Finance Corporation with a mandate to develop infrastructure, enhance industrial competitiveness and build a business-friendly ecosystem in Gabon.

It is reported that veneer mills peeling for the Indian market have cut production by as much as 50% in some cases. The slowdown in production raises the risk of both log stocks and veneers becoming degraded.

Not all bad news

Despite the negative indicators there is some good news as well. According to operators the container shortage is no longer an issue and empty containers are readily available.

Furthermore, news that the Assistant Minister of Industry and the Energy Minister of Gabon plans to extend electricity power lines to mills deep in the country, has been well received by timber and mill operators.

More positive news is that according to data from France, in 2021 Gabon exported goods worth 160-million Euros to France, up 53% compared to the previous year. Exports were of mainly wood (46%) hydrocarbons (25%) and metal ores (25%).

“French imports from Gabon have been growing steadily since 2019 driven in particular by the demand for tropical sawnwood,” states the ITTO report.

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