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SSA – February 2023 Newsletter


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2023 is already in full swing and despite the difficulties our industry is facing, we can report on some exciting prospects for our remarkable resource of timber.

I must, however, start by noting the sad and unexpected passing of Peter Sorfa in January, and pay tribute to the contribution he made to our industry. Peter was a greatly respected figure, an expert on all matters related to sawmilling, and his work at the CSIR on wood adhesives made him a well-known figure to many of our members.

He was, of late, helping us to align our South African sawn lumber product with the requirements of the Australian market. His knowledge and wisdom will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife Dorette and family.

Looking forward, and upward, with timber trends

While many established sawmillers cannot recall harder times than we are experiencing at present, there are very positive indications that we should be upbeat about the future.

Delegates at the 12th annual Wood Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 28 February, heard a European speaker describe how the sky’s the limit for engineered wood, particularly in Africa.

The speaker line up provided an unequivocal showcase for timber and its versatility. This extends from recycling waste railway sleepers into wooden interlocking bricks, to exploiting the technical potential for its use in the contruction of high-rise buildings. 

The event was originally initiated by George Kuratle, president of the Kuratle Group, and this year drew attendance from 550 delegates and a further 200 who participated online. Apart from hearing about some fantastic case studies around the world, and on our own continent, the conference is also networking platform for professionals in the built environment and students to expand their knowledge and get inspiration for wood and sustainable building solutions.

It also aims to support local architects in the promotion of wood in sustainable construction. We will certainly be exploring our participation for next year!

Time for timber

While in Cape Town, a number of SSA’s Exco members visited Jamie Smily at XLAM in Retreat. Cross laminated timber is predicted to become a game changer for the timber sector and we need to be alert to the opportunities it has to offer. He runs a remarkable operation, one which leaves no doubt that with the right wood, the right people and the right mindset, anything is possible.

An additional piece of welcome news is that Dianne Randall is confident that we should receive additional financial support from the FP&M Seta which will enable us to finalise the development of learning material for our planned skills training programme.

You will also be pleased to hear that Michael Peter has worked hard on our behalf to communicate the dire consequences of power cuts at many of our sawmills to government circles. This will, at least, create awareness as to the current pressures we have to bear.

That’s all from me for now, so don’t forget even that in these challenging times ‘you will still need to keep cutting straight and drying flat’.

Next Talking Timber webinar on 23 March

Our next webinar will take place on Thursday 23 March, focusing on the Sustainability of Wood in the Built Environment. Prof Ben du Toit and Vernon Collis will share their research and input on the sustainability of wood. You can register here.

Cheers till next month.

Don’t forget to visit our website and send us your news!

Roy Southey
Executive Director: Sawmilling South Africa

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