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Timber sawyers owe government K102 million

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Nancy Tembo

A group of timber sawyers operating in Chikangawa Forest, who recently met Vice President Saulos Chilima, owe Capital Hill K102 million, a debt which they are failing to service.

The group’s president, Paul Nthambazale, claimed this is because they no longer have enough trees in the forest to harvest.

The debt had accumulated to around K196.5 million in 2018 as a result of some members defaulting government royalties from the trees harvested.

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“The main challenge that we had was, one; we do not have the resource, so it’s difficult for us to pay, two; we actually said the debt that we are paying now was accumulated by members that are no longer with the union, we incorporated the debt. So the government has said it is seriously looking at the matter,” he said.

He said they have since made headway following their meeting with the government delegation on Thursday.

“On the issue of pricing, remember we said foreign owned companies buy logs at $10 per cubic and Malawians buy at K10, 000 per cubic. What we have actually agreed with the government is that we will also be buying at $10 which is acceptable and we are happy with that because there was no way foreigners could be buying at a cheaper price than us,” he said.

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Apart from Chilima, the meeting was also attended by Minister of Forest and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo who said they are seeking a win-win scenario for both parties.

“The other sticky issue was that they are looking for additional resources but as government we do not have the trees. What we are doing now is to replant and replenish our forests… so as we speak, we do not have matured trees for harvest but we are ready to give priority to Malawians who can afford to venture in the business,” she said.

Some of the outstanding issues include a request from the sawyers to review the concessions held by foreign owned companies in Chikangawa Forest.

Reformed Timber Millers Union is made up of 35 members.

The union wants indigenous Malawians to also be allocated more land in the Viphya Plantation to manage as concessionaires.

The 53, 000 hectares Viphya Plantation has about 12 concessionaires.

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