Raw log production in the Congo Basin region has increased by 50 per cent to 7.5 million cubic metres per year, Congolese Minister of Forest Economy Henri Djombo has said.
Speaking Tuesday on the sidelines of the International Forum on Sustainable Development of timber in the region, being held in Brazzaville, the Minister said the average processing rate throughout the region is now 54%, against 30-45% in 2000.
However, there are significant differences among the countries in the region.
In Cameroon, about 75% of the forest production is processed locally, while in Congo, the rate varies between 51 and 65%.
“These relatively high rates result from a policy carried out on a voluntary basis, But throughout the Congo Basin, it is still often more profitable for companies to export logs transported over hundreds of kilometres with their waste than exporting sawn manufactured wood,” a document released at the forum said.
Processing of wood is one of the objectives of the Convergence Plan that countries of the Congo Basin adopted in 2005 for a concerted exploitation and a sustainable management of their forest, which is witnessing massive cases of illegal logging.
Analysts said local timber processing would create jobs and diversify economies, which are often too dependent on a few export products.
“The development of the timber industry is one of the ways to achieve a double-digit growth rate and a one-digit unemployment rate,” said Honore Tabouna, an expert at the Economic Community of Central African States.
The second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon, the Congo Basin covers Angola, Burundi , Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe as well as Chad.