Trade Resources Industry Views He Struggles to Carry a 20-Meter Piece of Timber to a Lorry

He Struggles to Carry a 20-Meter Piece of Timber to a Lorry

The young man dressed in a dark blue overcoat wipes sweat from his brow as he struggles to carry a 20-meter piece of timber to a lorry. With the timber balancing delicately on his right shoulder, he walks for about ten meters and places it in the lorry, before turning back to pick more. He is being helped by four others. The five rush against time to clear a stack of 150 pieces, before they can start loading another lorry, which is waiting. The timber yard in Kariobangi, a business hub on the east of Kenya ’s capital Nairobi, is a beehive of activities. It is one among many others in the area and the capital that is recording booming business driven by increased demand of timber in construction and furniture industries. “Most of those who buy timber from our yard go to use it in construction of houses. They come here with lorries and buy in bulk, ” recounted Clement Musyoka, a supervisor at the yard, on Friday. Kenya ’s construction industry, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is experiencing boom, as demand for houses and rental yields rise. In its economic indicators report for May, the bureau observed that in the capital alone, 16, 372 people had applied to Nairobi City Council for approval of both residential and nonresidential construction plans. Most of residential houses being constructed in the capital are apartments. Musyoka noted that demand for timber in the sector is so high that sometimes they are unable to satisfy their customers. “We experienced this about two months ago. We could not meet all orders that our customers had placed due to shortage. Up to now, we are still clearing some of the orders, ” he recounted. Musyoka, as other timber merchants in the area, sells a foot of timber at 0.35 U. S. Dollars. “Prices went up last year as supply of timber dwindled and demand, especially in the construction industry increased, ” he said. Initially, most merchants in the capital sold a foot of timber for 0.16 dollars. “Prices have now stabilized at 0.35 dollars. Customers complain of high prices but there is little we can do because we have to make profit, ” he explained. Musyoka noted that prices are high because, more often, they buy imported timber from Uganda, Tanzania and Congo to meet demand. Tanzania, however, is the major source of timber imported to Kenya. “There are dealers who go with trucks to these countries to import timber. The one sold here cannot satisfy demand, besides that there are a lot of restrictions that prohibit logging, which also make local timber expensive, ” he said. Once the traders import the timber, they sell it to various merchants in the city and its environs. “Our prices depend on their prices. Sometimes the imported timber is even cheaper than the one we buy locally, ” said Musyoka adding most imported timber is cypress, and pine. In 2010, it was estimated that Kenya spends more than 37.5 million dollars annually on timber imports. The amount had risen from 62, 000 dollars in 1999. Demand for timber in the East African nation currently stands at over 38 million cubic meters per year. “Business is not bad. It has risen in the last few years, especially in Nairobi because of a vibrant construction industry, ” noted Christopher Njoroge, a timber merchant in Kayole, a residential area on the east of Nairobi. On a good day, Njoroge recounted that he gets about ten orders from various people that include those in furniture and construction industry. “Some of them ask us to deliver the timber to their yards while others prefer to come and collect it themselves, ” he said. As many other merchants in the area, on a bad day, Njoroge noted that he makes at least 500 dollars. “It depends with the orders one gets and their ability to supply. It is good business. Many people have now ventured into it in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya because they know it is lucrative, ” he said. However, as timber merchants record improved earnings, Kenya ’s forest cover is dwindling drastically. Plans to restore the forests have not yielded solid fruits. Kenya Forest Service (KFS) estimates that the East African nation loses about 600, 000 trees annually to both legal and illegal loggers. Kenya ’s forest cover currently stands at a paltry 2 percent. This translates to less than a million hectares of land under trees. At independence, the East African nation’s forest cover stood at about 10 percent. In 1999, Kenya banned logging in public forests. The ban was intended to conserve the country’s forests and prevent wanton destruction of trees. The government observed that timber merchants had cut trees without engaging in reforestation programs. The ban has had mixed fortunes in the industry. While it fairly helped to conserve forests, stakeholders note that it led to increase in illegal logging and closure of hundreds of sawmills thus loss of about 300, 000 jobs. The ban, on the other hand, led to rise in commercial growing of trees, which has become a multi-million dollar business in the East African nation. KFS has embarked on reforestation programs across the East African nation in plans to boost forest cover. Timber merchants hope that the move will lead to increase in timber and thus business. Source: coastweek

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Prices rise as healthy timber business booms
Topics: Construction