By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi
Uganda is the East African region’s leader in timber plantations with an impressive 85,000 ha established since 2004.
Published data indicates that over 86% of Uganda’s plantations are privately owned and all downstream processing is owned by the private sector.
According to Solomon Oketcho, the board chairperson of UTGA (Uganda Timber Growers Association), there is high demand for timber in neighbouring countries like Kenya.
However, he says there are major obstacles to exporting including issues of seed quality, pests and diseases, certification issues and illegal dealers, not to mention the suppressed timber prices from middlemen due to a lack of an integrated marketing system.
The impact of this situation in Uganda’s commercial forestry sector according to Oketcho is being felt much more seriously by the small-scale and medium growers that make up the bulk of Uganda’s commercial in addition to negatively impacting investors’ confidence in the sector.
With Uganda still importing power transmission poles, shrewd farmers are investing in eucalyptus and harvesting it for six to eight years.
“In Kenya, the market is well developed, the processing industry is well developed but they don’t have enough trees, giving us a market opportunity for our timber”, Oketcho said.
He added, “Over the last 16 years, Uganda has already attracted well over $50m of private investment, created thousands of jobs and is contributing significantly to rural incomes and poverty reduction.”
“However, it is important to understand the hugely significant impact a well-planned commercial forestry sector can have on all stakeholders”, Oketcho added.
“UTGA has received funding from the World Bank to offer support to the sector and its members by setting up and managing a processing hub to demonstrate best practices of value addition, provide an extension or technical services, coordinate applied research and resolve timber export issues”, says Oketcho.
In Uganda, middlemen buy a tonne of timber at about sh85,000 while factories pay around sh160,000. These prices according to Oketcho are much lower than what is offered in the Kenyan Market.
We link buyers to sellers through our developed web-based timber trade platform (the TimberMart) which acts as a marketplace for trade in timber and other forest products.
The yard will be able to provide value addition services e.g kiln drying of timber omg others. It will act as a specialised point of marketing members’ wood.
To join UTGA, one fills out a form and pays a one-off membership fee and an annual subscription based on the membership category.
The membership fee is 100,000 but the annual subscription fees are based on the membership category