MAPUTO– The Thai government is seeking to obtain 100,000 hectares of land in Mozambique for a Thai company which wants to produce wood for a future paper processing factory.

The Permanent Secretary to Thailand’s Ministry of Trade, MuntawanSakuntanaga, mentioned this plan during a meeting between prospective Thai investors and representatives of the Confederation of Mozambican Business Associations (CTA) here Tuesday.

He did not name the company, but said it is one of the world’s largest pulp and paper producers. He added that the Thai investors had applied for authorization to log in 100,000 hectares but did not say where this huge tract of land is located.

Such an enormous concession needs authorization from the full Council of Ministers (Cabinet), and there is no indication that it has yet discussed such a request, which is likely to meet strong opposition from environmental groups.

The history of forestry plantations in Mozambique is not a happy one. Such plantations have found it difficult to operate at a profit, and have often run into conflicts with the local population.

Sakuntanaga also told the CTA that Thailand is interested in buying natural gas from Mozambique. “Last year we invested 220 million US dollars in Mozambique and this sum can become much greater in the next five years since Thailand is interested in the area of hydrocarbons. We shall invest two billion US dollars in purchasing Mozambican gas, he added.

PTT Public Company Limited (PTT), the State-owned oil and gas company, is already involved in Mozambican natural gas. It has an 8.5 per cent stake in Rovuma Basin Offshore Area One, where the American company Anadarko is the operator.

CTA official Joao das Neves told journalists that the Thai delegation had also expressed interest in investing in other sectors, such as the building materials, agriculture and mineral resources sectors, including precious and semi-precious stones.

He said the CTA and their Thai visitors discussed the willingness of the Mozambican private sector to present partners capable of facilitating implementation of projects, robustly and with local knowledge.