Pride of Africa French exports in limbo

Dumisani Nsingo
Bulawayo Bureau
Timber logging and furniture manufacturer, Pride of Africa’s prospects of tapping into the lucrative French market with its array of hardwood products are being hampered by its failure to comply with that country’s technical import requirements.

Pride of Africa manager, Ms Edinah Taedza said the company has over the last two years managed to export an assortment of timber products across the globe, but hinted that efforts to grab a niche market in France where its hardwood products seem to be in demand was being frustrated by technical import requirements from that country.

“Over the past two years we sold products to individual clients in Egypt where we supplied flooring, furniture in France and also sent a container of flooring to Israel. We are, however, failing to penetrate the lucrative French market with more orders due to certification procedures. For us to export to France, there are certification procedures we have to meet and this requires us to bring technocrats from there to oversee our operations. The challenge we have is that as a company, we are financially constrained to fly, accommodate and fend the number of technocrats that will be expected to carryout the certification process,” she said.

The Harare-headquartered company has a central distribution centre in South Africa to service its regional and international markets, which account for about 70 percent of its sells.

The distribution centre is based in Midrand, with the warehouse stockpiled with approximately 3000 square metre of product at any one time. The distribution centre is equipped with a versatile team knowledgeable in all the intricacies of hardwood flooring and decking.

Pride of Africa harvests it timber and manufactures it furniture at its carpentry unit in Nkayi where its saw mill plant is also situated while its decking and flooring products are produced at its workshop in Harare.

Its product range includes non slip, beveled and easy clip decking, strip flooring, parquet blocks, mini mosaic parquet tiles and skirting as well as laminate, engineered and vnyl flooring for specialised contracts. The hardwood product range is produced utilising the latest German and Italian machinery, including state-of-the art kiln drying plants and various cutters.

Ms Taedza reckons that the company’s business has since the beginning of the year been on a steady rise.

“We are doing quite well so far. We won a tender to harvest Gwampa Forest this year and it has given us a major boost in terms of the quality of the logs and our recovery time has gone up, including our production. Since we started harvesting in Gwampa, we have managed to offset our legacy debt with (Nkayi Rural) Council and we are making significant inroads servicing our bank loan. We have also been able to purchase strategic mill equipment to enhance our production. The market hasn’t been that bad, like any other small player we are making use of various innovations to stay afloat,” she said. The company harvests about 400 cubes of logs a month and sells 160 cubes planks of hard wood namely teak, mahogany and mukwa.

Ms Taedza said there is a need to change local consumers’ perception and preferences of ceramic tiles to wooden tiles.

“We are selling in Zimbabwe and we have a warehouse in South Africa where we have decking and flooring tile, which are also sold locally. We aren’t selling much locally largely because of the fact that it will take time for locals to accept wooden tiles in place of ceramic tiles. People should appreciate that even if wooden tiles aren’t much attractive as ceramic tiles, they have a longer lifespan,” she said.

Ms Taedza said the company is in the process of engaging Nkayi Rural District Council for the allocation of another timber concession as the forest is depleting at a faster rate.

“We are running out of forestry and we are currently in the process of engaging the Council to allocate us some concessions. There are certain areas we have identified and are interested to exploit because if Gwampa runs out we might be forced to wind up our business. The challenge we are facing is that people are being settled in most of the forestry area with timber and the abundant timber is now only on the maps but on the ground, there isn’t much,” she said.

Nkayi Rural District Council charman, Mr Zimbabwe Ndlovu concurred with Ms Taedza’s sentiments, stating that the district’s timber concession had been severely depleted.

“Suffice to say Nkayi doesn’t have much timber as perceived by many. We are mostly relying on what we might term savagely harvesting of timber. It is also largely to this savaging harvesting that you find out that in some areas people have opened up cropping fields and as a result we have lost a lot of timber in the process,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu said as part of the local authority’s efforts to conserve and preserve timber, it has formulated a policy to stop wanton acts of deforestation in certain areas.

“Council has made a resolution and came up with a policy to demarcate certain forest to ensure that generations to come can also be able to benefit from their natural resource through harvesting timber. We have just formulated the policy and we will soon be going to the communities to fully implement it. We are however, not expecting to see the benefits now but in the next 25 to 40 years whereby both the community and Council will be able to benefit from its timber,” he said.

The forest areas earmarked for demarcation for the conservation of timber by the local authority are namely Sivomo, Fanisoni, Mjena, Matshena-Simangwanangombe and Matshuzula.

“We have a private player who is harvesting from the Forestry Commission concession and processing and a few entrepreneurs involved in furniture manufacturing on a small-scale and the impact isn’t that much but it contributes to the economy of the district in a way,” said Mr Ndlovu.

He said the local authority has also engaged a certain investor to harness timber at its Maguni concession area as part of its many efforts to generate income.

“We have finalized with a certain investor to go and cut timber in Maguni area and we expect harvesting to start in August.

‘‘We are looking at 18 months operations with people being employed and the investor paying royalties to the Council, of which the revenue generated through this will be used towards carrying out a number of other outstanding projects,” said Mr Ndlovu.

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