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The Minister of Forests in Gabon has issued a letter with wide ranging advice and guidance for timber companies whom, he said, should prepare plans for eliminating the risk of the corona virus infecting employees.

The letter explains that the Ministry has put in place measures to ensure the operation of companies. It also explains that ministry and forestry staff will remain at work to assist companies, that the ministry will facilitate transport authorisations and the smooth operation of the ports. In addition, the ministry will provide travel restriction waivers for essential company operatives and management.

Other aspects included in the letter from the Minister cover very detailed instructions on how forest based and processing mills should be managed during the crisis and deals with worker movement and sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

On preparation for shipments the letter from the Minister says systems for safe container stuffing have been put in place in Owendo Port and the site will be under SNBG management.

The Minister also explained that discussions are underway on how best to financially support the timber sector. To support company cash flow. SNBG has been authorised to purchase and pay immediately for timber from operators including kevazingo harvested before 2018.

Companies with other stocks are free to export as usual or they can sell to SNBG. The government is urging companies not to lay-off workers but, if this is unavoidable, they must consult with the Ministry of Labour.

Survey – Impact of pandemic on Gabon’s timber sector

1. Are logging operations still working?

LOGGING STILL WORKING AT 70% DUE TO RAINS.

2. Are mills/factories still working?

MILLS STILL WORKING, OUTPUT THE SAME AS THIS IS KEEPING FINANCE UP.

3. Have forest sector workers been laid off?

LAID OFF: YES, ABOUT 20% OF LOCAL STAFF AND 5% EXPATS.

4. Are laid off workers receiving payment either from companies or government?

YES, THEY GET 50% OF THEIR BASIC SALARY FROM COMPANIES.

5. Are companies already receiving government support?

NO NOT AT ALL / NO SUPPORT ONLY ADVICE AND SOME EASING OF RSTRICTIONS.

6. If so, what type of support?

SEE ABOVE

7. Compared to the 1st quarter last year, how are inventories?

INVENTORIES ARE UNCHANGED. TYPE DEPENDS ON THE MARKET.

8. Are companies still fulfilling orders placed precrisis?

SAWMILLS ARE STILL RUNNING. SOME CHINESE HAVE CLOSED AND Staff LEFT THE COUNTRY.

9. Have orders been cancelled?

NOT BEEN CANCELLED BUT PRODUCERS ASKED TO HOLD BACK AWAITING. OPENING OF PORTS IN RECEIVING COUNTRIES.

10. Are domestic transportation systems for timber functioning?

DOMESTIC TRANSPORT IS OK. NO CHANGES. WITH OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS TRUCKS ARE TRAVELING NORMALLY.

11. Are the ports open for:

PORTS OPEN FOR EXPORT AND IMPORT/ NO PROBLEM.

12. Are containers readily available?

CONTAINERS ARE AVAILABLE . NO PROBLEM TO GET FROM MAERSL, MSC,CSM AND CGA.

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

LOOKING FOR OTHER/NEW MARKETS FOR SALES.

14. Please estimate how long it would take to ramp up production to pre-crisis levels?

ONE MONTH

15. What is your estimate of national lost sales % in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019?

THERE HAS NOT BEEN ANY LOST SALES. ONE YEAR AGO THE CHINESE MARKET WAS ALREADY WEAKENING.

MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT STOCKS ARE INCREASING BECAUSE OF THE CLOSURE OF SOME MAJOR PORTS IN IMPORTING COUNTRIES.

CURRENTLY BUYERS FOR THE CHINESE MARKET ARE PLACING NEW ORDERS

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