Rwanda Moves to Halt $100m Wood Imports
The government is hunting for investors in the forestry sector to end what natural resources minister Dr Vincent Biruta calls â€œhuge amountâ€ spent on importing wood products.
The import bill for wood and its bi-products reached Rwf 80billion ($102million) in 2015. It has been at around that level for years. Amid an exploding general trade deficit, the authorities are having less sleep.
At astakeholders forum this past week, ministerBiruta said there are many opportunities for investment in the forestry sector.
â€œWe are open to work with the private sector to manage our forests, improve their quality and ensure efficient use and value addition,â€ said Biruta.
â€œEvery year we spend a huge amount on importing wood products, even though we have â€˜Made in Rwandaâ€™ forest resources here to utilise.â€
The biggest part of the import bill is pushed by imports of construction materials. And as more houses fill the skyline, more highend furniture is needed.In addition, a large section of the population still uses wood for cooking.
Up until 2013, Rwanda was importing even electric poles. That stopped with entryof New Forest Company (NFC), a UK firm with $ 60 million investment. NFC signed a-49 year concession agreement with Rwanda to exploit 12,000 hectares forest of Nyungwe buffer zone.
It produces 10,000 electric wooden poles annually, for both Rwanda and regional markets mainly Tanzania, according to JosephMunyarukaza, from NFC who spoke to KT Press in June last year. A wooden pole costs up to Rwf100,000 ($140)
However, even as government is desperate for investors, environment officials say that doesnâ€™t mean a blank cheque has been issued for erasing the countryâ€™s forest cover.
At the forum in Kigali, delegates were calling for efficient technologies that require use of less wood to get highest benefit.
For example, Claude Mansell from Inyenyeri, a local energy services firm, said using wood pellets for tea production was 80% more efficient than ordinary wood fuel.