Logging ban caused timber shortage, high prices traders

Wachira Gitau, an official from the Timber Manufacturers Association in Central Kenya, said the decision to lift the ban had come at an opportune time, as the nation was grappling with a timber shortage that was adversely impacting the sector.

"The ban caused a serious timber shortage, resulting in high timber prices that compelled many sawmillers to cease their operations," he explained.

He urged the court to consider lifting the ban to facilitate the provision of raw materials for the industry.

Gitau said a significant portion of the trees within the forest plantation had deteriorated because they had reached maturity but were not harvested in a timely manner.

"We discovered that most of the trees had rotted, and even those still standing were essentially dead when cut, rendering them incapable of producing usable timber. This represents a substantial loss for us," he said.

Gitau said lifting the ban would significantly impact the timber industry by satisfying market demand through improved log supply and creating employment opportunities, particularly for young people, especially within the furniture sector.

Meanwhile, sawmill operators said they had been procuring logs from cultivated forests, but this supply did not adequately meet market demands.

"Our most significant challenge stemmed from the scarcity of mature trees suitable for timber. Some farmers were cutting immature trees, putting our businesses at risk," he said.

Moses Wahome Ndegwa, the forest conservator for Nyeri County, clarified that the lifting of the ban applied exclusively to licensed timber millers who had previously paid for permits to harvest mature trees within plantation forests prior to the imposition of the ban six years ago.

"Only those individuals who had paid for the right to harvest mature trees in the forest are permitted to retrieve their designated trees," he said. Wahome said trees within plantation forests are cultivated for production purposes, and harvesting of indigenous trees from the forest is prohibited.

He said trees in plantation forests mature after 28 to 30 years and have fast-growing species that provide raw materials for affordable housing and furniture.

"Trees harvested include cyprus and pine that are used in constructing houses and making furniture," Wahome added.

He explained that in Nyeri County, tree plantation makes up 10 per cent of the forest cover. The forest conservator said those licensed to harvest trees are pre-qualified after being vetted.