MAPUTO, The Mozambican government has imposed a three-month ban on all logging following a ban on all exports of logs passed by parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, last December, and inspections of timber operators throughout March, under “Operation Trunk”, which showed massive illegalities in the sector.

Speaking to reporters in Maputo after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) on Tuesday, Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development Celso Correia estimated that illegal timber operations were costing Mozambique about 200 million US dollars a year.

“We want to continue our reforms, by re-assessing all logging licences, because we feel that what is happening is daylight robbery,” declared Correia.

Correia said that on the domestic market a cubic metre of wood can be purchased for just 350 meticais (about 5.3 US dollars), but can then be resold for more than 300 USD on the international market.

It is only unprocessed logs which cannot be exported, wood which has undergone processing, not matter how minimal, can still be exported.

During “Operation Trunk”, Correia said, the government brigades had seized 150,000 cubic metres of valuable hardwoods, although the government had not expected to seize more than 120,000 cubic metres. The figure could rise still further, since the operation is still under way.

Fines were imposed amounting to over 157 million meticais. more than 120 timber yards were inspected, and illegal operations were discovered in 75 per cent of them. These included unauthorized logging, and the storage and transport of forestry resources also without authorization.

“We found situations in which much of the wood had been logged in protected areas,” said the Minister. Particularly notorious was the looting of wood from the Gile National Reserve in Zambezia province.