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Almost all African countries are reporting cases of the coronavirus and as the number of cases continues to grow more countries are finding the virus has spread beyond the main cities. Of the 47 African member countries of the WHO, almost 60% have reported cases in multiple locations compared with around 21% at the beginning of April.

There is no clear picture on how the pandemic is affecting timber companies. There are considerable variations in responses to the pandemic among African countries which makes analysis difficult. What is certain is that jobs are being lost and African economies will see a drastic drop in export earnings from the timber sector in the coming months.

Sawmills in Cameroon cannot operate

The Cameroon Minister of Health, Dr. Malachie Manaouda, has warned virus infections could shortly surge and the ministry has launched a mass screening exercise.

The strategy adopted to slow the spread of the virus will focus on raising awareness and regulating the flow of people in crowded areas. Sawmills in Cameroon are reportedly not operating as they have few orders, no log supply and because of the corona virus control measures.

DRC lockdown

It has been reported that a few days after the Democratic Republic of Congo ordered a complete lockdown of Kinshasa Province residents faced problems getting household essentials. More than 11 million people have been told not to leave home except for food supplies.

Movement of people in the commune of La Gombe, where most government offices and timber companies have offices, is restricted. ATIBT reports that logging companies are not included in the movement ban.

Shipments continue from Equatorial Guinea

In mid-March Equatorial Guinea declared a National State of Alarm to facilitate the mobilisation of resources needed to stem the spread of corona virus. An emergency fund was created to try and limit the spread of infections.

It has been reported that a large number of containers with Kevazingo sawnwood have been seized in Bata Port. The authorities say when the pandemic is over inspection of the legality of the shipments will be conducted. Analysts report that log exports continue and that shipments comprise mainly okoume and redwoods such as tali, padouk, some bosse and doussie.

Some companies still operating in Congo

Republic of Congo reports that pandemic related impacts are already making themselves felt where a strict lockdown has been in place since 31 March and borders were closed.

While some companies, including the larger ones in the North of the country, are still operating a number (especially in the South) have suspended operations altogether, and the sector as a whole has cut production.

Log Export Prices

West Africa logs, FOB € per m³
Asian market
LM
B
BC/C
Acajou/ Khaya/N’Gollon
265
265
175
Ayous/Obéché/Wawa
250
250
225
Azobe & Ekki
275
275
175
Belli
270
270
Bibolo/Dibétou
215
215
Bilinga
275
275
Iroko 300
280
225
Okoume (60% CI, 40% CE, 20% CS) (China only) 220 220 200
Moabi 365 365 285
Movingui 210
210
Niove
160
160
Okan
200
200
Padouk
250
230
200
Sapele 260 260 200
Sipo/Utile
260
260
230
Tali 300 300

 

Sawnwood Export Prices

West Africa sawnwood, FOB
€ per m³
Ayous FAS GMS 440
Bilinga FAS GMS 540
Okoumé FAS GMS
460
Merchantable 310
Std/Btr GMS 340
Sipo FAS GMS
500
FAS fixed sizes
FAS scantlings 520
Padouk FAS GMS 640
FAS scantlings 675
Strips 320
Sapele FAS Spanish sizes 450
FAS scantlings 480
Iroko FAS GMS 600
Scantlings 660
Strips
350
Khaya FAS GMS
480
FAS fixed
540
Maobi FAS GMS
620
Scantlings
640
Movingui FAS GMS
420

 

 

Survey – Impact of pandemic on Ghana’s timber sector

1. Are mills still operating?

Mills in the country with available raw materials and orders are currently in production, as government announced COVID-19 measures, so far, were specific and restricted to the movement of persons. The measures exempted the production and movement of goods and essential services. Factory workers who show evidence of any form of IDs were not affected by the movement restrictions but expected to comply with social distancing.

These are measures by Executive Instrument (EI) imposed under EI 64 and EI 65 on Public Gatherings and restricted movement of persons within selected zones respectively.

2. Have workers been laid off?

No timber sector workers have been laid off as at the time of this report. Ghana employs about 1.2 million workers, of which 600,000 are public sector workers. The remaining are either self-employed or with private investors.

All public and private schools in the country were the first to be closed down by government on 16 Mach 2020.

Recently unconfirmed scanty reports indicate, some private school teachers have either been laid off, about to be laid off or may not be paid for the period at home.

3. Are laid off workers receiving payments?

There are no known lay offs in the public sector so workers are still receiving their wages and salaries.

Government has also already announced 3-months various levels of water and electricity reliefs for Ghanaians, stressing on judicious of these utilities.

It is anticipated with these measures, employers who do not meet production targets could likely reconsider cutting down on workforces. This will also depend on the availability and sustainability of packages promised by government.

4. Are companies already receiving govnment support?

The Government has recently received parliamentary approval to spend an additional GHC1.2 billion (or US$210 million) for 2020 (April to June) to support businesses, and to minimise job loses.

The government has promised some financial support but companies are yet to know the fine details of who will benefit or not and how much. Government has also pushed forward the payment of taxes and VAT.

Government also plans to support companies by absorbing 100% water and 50% electricity tariffs for the months of Apr to Jun.2020. These are expected to reflect on their month end bills. The Ghana Association of Bankers has also announced a 2% cut in interest rates on loans.

5. Have orders (domestic/international) been cancelled?

Mills outside the lockdown zones are currently producing for both the domestic and international markets.

Ghana announced its COVID-19 case just last month. The Timber Industry Development Division (TIDD) of the Forestry Commission (FC) continued to process and approve contracts for export.

6. Estimated % change in shipments since Jan 2020 to China/EU/US/Others Wood product shipments have not suffered any setback.

However, arrivals at destinations in China, EU, US and others could suffer delayed port clearance and possible demurrage depending on each destination. But as cargo is in port this could also help eliminate any anticipated shortfalls by the final consumer.

7. Are mill stock levels increasing?

Factories largely produce to market rather than to stock.

The only challenge is production run could take a little more time to complete, due to social distancing which could affect the number of shift workers at any particular point in time.

8. How much time would be required to ramp up production to pre-crisis levels?

Depends on the factory and its outstanding orders, all things being equal with raw materials availability, production levels could be raised within 3-months.

9. What will be the main challenges in ramping up production?

Cash flow, if factories have incurred overheads beyond their control from putting in place the appropriate measures and the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to combating workplace virus spread.

10. Are containers still being loaded at the port?

Despite land border closures to people and goods the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authourity (GPHA) continue to handle all sea import and export cargoes through the port. Shipping line vessels also call the ports as scheduled without any interruption.

Meanwhile protocols on social distancing and movement of persons are strictly enforced.

11. Are containers readily available?

Yes, with the scheduled vessel calls empty containers are discharged on arrival for subsequent shipments.

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