The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has unanimously passed the second and final reading of a government Bill which will ban all exports of unprocessed logs from the country in a bid to halt the devastation of Mozambique’s hardwood forests.

Since the Bill’s first reading last week, itl has been amended by the Assembly’s Plan and Budget Commission to remove any ambiguity. The original version did not explicitly mention a ban on log exports, but simply revoked Article in a 2010 law which allowed such exports.

The amended version, however, specifically states that the export of logs is forbidden, in order “to contribute to the sustainable management of forestry resources, and promote national industry”.

Semi-processed timber may be exported, but is subject to an export surtax, which declines the greater the amount of processing. The tax ranges from 20 per cent for simple beams, and 15 per cent for planks to only three per cent for parquet. There is no surtax on the export of finished timber products such as furniture.

The ban on log exports takes effect on Jan 1.

When he introduced the Bill last week, Land, Environment and Rural Development Minister Celso Correia pointed to an alarming rise in the legal export of logs, from 22,846 cubic metres in 2010, to 148,093 cubic metres in 2015.

There was also an increase in illegal logging and illegal exports. The destination of most of this wood, whether legally or illegally logged, was China.

The Bill, Correia said, forms part of a forestry sector reform programme “seeking to promote the protection, conservation, valuing and use of our forestry heritage, in a rational, responsible and transparent manner, for the economic, social and ecological benefits of Mozambicans, within the framework of sustainable development, and to build resilience to climate change”.

The Assembly also passed, also unanimously, the second and final reading of a Bill imposing heavy prison sentences on traffickers in protected wildlife species. Previous Mozambican legislation suffered a glaring weakness in that only those who shot protected animals could be sent to prison while those who financed the poaching or who transported elephant tusks, rhino horns or other illicit wildlife produce would at most suffer a fine.

Under the new law poachers and traffickers are treated in the same way. Prison terms of between 12 and 16 years are thus not only for those who pull the trigger, but also for anyone who “heads, directs, promotes, instigates, creates or finances, joins, supports, or collaborates directly or indirectly with any group, organization or association of two or more people” involved in the destruction of protected species of fauna and flora.

The same penalty is imposed on anyone who, without authorization, sells, distributes, buys, receives, transports, imports, exports, or owns products from protected species.