Mozambique: 200 Timber Workers At Risk of Unemployment

Maputo – Over 200 workers of the Jihad Madeiras 2007 (JM7) timber company in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, are in danger of losing their jobs after a sudden change in the specifications for processed timber demanded by the company’s Chinese clients.

According to a report carried by the independent television station STV, the Chinese buyers are demanding that the planks they purchase must be at least 20 centimetres thick – but Mozambican legislation on the matter says that planks for export can be no more than 12.5 centimetres thick.

JM7 manager Ali Saleh Hawil declared “We’re being squeezed, because the Mozambican forestry law says one thing, and the client in China wants something else. This is putting the company in a complicated position, because we need to operate. Every month we spend a million meticais (about 21,000 US dollars) on wages, not to mention the company’s logistics”.

The company says it has invested millions of dollars in acquiring equipment to cut and saw timber, and fears this will all be wasted unless the government gives way to the demands of the Chinese buyers.

The JM7 workers also want the government to intervene. They fear that unless concessions are made to the Chinese, they will all lose their jobs.

The Zambezia provincial director of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Eugenio Manhica, could give the company no comfort. There was no way that he could authorize JM7 to break the law.

He said he understood the company’s concern, but warned that all he could do was obey the law.

The law in question is a ministerial diploma of 2007 which states that the primary transformation of logs into sawn timber must produce planks that are between 7.5 and 12.5 centimetres thick, wider than 12 centimetres and at least 80 centimetres long.

Since this diploma has been in force for almost a decade, it is reasonable to assume that JM7’s Chinese clients must have known about it, but only now are they flexing their muscles.

Source: All Africa