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SSA – July 2023 Newsletter


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Good day to all you brave sawmillers and I mean brave! I have been in this industry for more than 30 years now and I cannot recall a time when sawmillers were up against such odds. In the past, it’s always been either market or logs, but now you have to add loadshedding – and in some cases, water –  into the equation. I’m lost for words.

But I know that sawmillers are a tough and resourceful bunch and we will come out of this, maybe a little scarred or battered, but the world keeps turning.

At the AGM last month, it was resolved that the association should get actively try to identify potential offshore markets and then to pave the way for individual sawmills to develop personal and commercial relationships that lead to sales, and hopefully success.

The work we have done with Wespine in Australia has shown us that there is indeed a lot more to international relationships than putting a salesman on a plane and telling him to comeback with an order.

To this end, we have asked for assistance from Dr Schalk Grobbelaar of the University of Pretoria and to date the university has drafted a conceptual proposal for SSA.

I am going to move out of my comfort zone and include below an extract from Schalk’s proposal. This to inform you and to hopefully solicit your support for the development of an export strategy that will benefit all SA sawmillers.

“The proposal includes the following assumptions:

  • The objectives of the initiative are to:
    • Identify suitable export markets for South African lumber (SA Pine and Eucalyptus).
    • Compare the standards of those markets with what is feasible to implement in South Africa.
    • Provide recommendations on which markets could be targeted.
    • Assist with financial feasibility analysis.
    • Provide recommendations during pilot studies.
  • The initial focus will be on Australia, but other options will also be evaluated. 
  • We will not act as agents nor facilitate the export process. 
  • We will need to procure standards from international standardisation bodies. This will not be included in our proposal and will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
  • We will be very dependent on information provided by SSA and its members.
  • We will depend on information supplied by local or international wood trading agents. 
  • Our arrangement is consultative, and the liability of decisions made by SSA and its members rests with them, not us.
  • We aim to increase the competitiveness of the South African Sawmilling industry to increase the profitability of local sawmills, which will lead to the investment in and growth and prosperity of the local sawmilling and forestry sectors.

Research by the University of Pretoria:

We will have to perform materials testing to confirm whether SA Pine/Eucalyptus meets international standards. 

  • We recommend that this is performed at the University of Pretoria. To perform the testing, we will require resources. 
  • We recommend that SSA provides financial support to the Programme in Wood Structural Engineering at the University of Pretoria. 
  • Any data collected through this research will be utilised for academic publications. I believe this will benefit SSA because the information will be peer-reviewed and could be used to promote South African wood resources. It will also enable UP to leverage additional funding. 

Consulting by Enterprises University of Pretoria:

  • Establishing international export markets will require commercial analysis and evaluation. It is better to perform this through a consulting agreement facilitated by Enterprises University of Pretoria (EUP)
  • The work will require:
    • Communication with international agents and timber traders.
    • Evaluation of international standards and comparison with properties of local wood.
    • Evaluation of local capabilities (technologies & production planning) to meet the requirements of international markets.
    • Statistical analyses.
    • Holistic evaluation of the options and consolidating recommendations.
  • The commercial recommendations will be confidential.”

We are confident that if we approach this initiative diligently, make use of the generous services offered to us by the University, among others, and we include the experience and expertise that exists within the industry, we will expand the South African sawmilling footprint in the world to our mutual benefit.


She is Forestry – 3 August
You will agree that our sector is male-dominated but there is a big move across the value chain to ensure that women find their voice and their place. SSA is a part sponsor of the 2023 She is Forestry webinar taking place on 3 August, ahead of Women’s Day. This online event is certainly not limited to women in the industry and I encourage the gents among us to register. Please also forward this to your female colleagues.

You can find a copy of the programme here  as it is a long programme but you might be able to dip in and out as your schedule allows.

Stellenbosch – 30 August 2023
Johannesburg – 27 September 2023
Contact Dr Philip Crafford –

An Introduction to Carbon Reporting and Carbon Tax for Forestry and Forest Products
If you missed it, our colleagues at PAMSA hosted a webinar – An Introduction to Carbon Reporting and Carbon Tax for Forestry and Forest Products – in conjunction with the Sustainable African Forest Assurance Scheme and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.

The purpose of the webinar was to present an overview of the legislative framework around reporting carbon emissions and accounting for carbon tax. A protocol that has been developed to motivate to National Treasury to include carbon from third party timber in the carbon tax calculations will be presented.

This is the first of a series of webinars that will include more focused discussion around the legal obligations of growers and mills.

Please complete this survey if we wish your name to be added to our webinar invitation list, and encourage your colleagues to do so.

Well that’s it for another month – so until next time please keep cutting straight and drying flat.

Roy Southey
Executive Director: Sawmilling South Africa

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