The forestry industry is one of the strategic economic sectors in South Africa with a significant contribution towards economic growth and job creation.
In terms of land use, the area under forestry is about 1,257 million ha or about 1% of the total South African land area of 122,3 million ha. The forestry sector (forestry and forest products) contributes about 1,2% to gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of regional GDP, forestry in KwaZulu-Natal contributes 4,5%; in Mpumalanga 4,7%; 0,9% in the Eatsern Cape and about 0,5% in Limpopo. The value of exported forest products increased from R9,5 billion in 2001 to R13,4 billion in 2010.
The forestry sector employed around 201 025 people in 2009.
That year, the total investment in the forestry industry amounted to R24,8 billion. This comprised:
- 58,5% in trees
- 19,4% in land
- 13% in roads
- 6,2% in fixed assets
- 2,8% in moveable assets.
Regarding investment in the forest product sector by type of processing plant for 2009, the total book value of investments amounted to R15,7 billion. This investment comprised:
- 82,7% in pulp and board plants
- 11,8% in sawmills and veneer plants
- 1% in pole plants
- 0,3% in mining timber
- 4,2% in other plants.
The industry was a net exporter of almost R3,9 billion worth of goods in 2010, of which more than 99% took the form of converted value-added products. The forest-product industry ranks among the top exporting industries in the country, having contributed 2,27% to total exports and 1,61% to total imports in 2010. Capital investment in the industry amounted to an estimated R45 billion in 2010.
There are about 530 000 ha of indigenous or natural forests in the country, which occur mainly along the southern and eastern escarpment, the coastal belt and in sheltered kloofs or ravines.
There has been an increase in the use of natural forests as sources of medicine, building material, fuel wood and food. It is estimated that around 80% of South Africa's population still uses medicinal plants, most of which are sourced from natural habitats.
By mid-2009, the private sector owned 1 058 908 ha (or 83%) of the total plantation area of 1 274 869 ha, and virtually all the processing plants in the country.
The remaining 17% (215 840 ha) was under public ownership, although this figure includes Komatiland Forests, the remaining South African Forestry Company Limited package. The extent of public ownership has decreased significantly because of restructuring.
In 2009, capital investment in these plantations stood at R24,8 billion, 59% of which was attributable to investment in trees. A further 19% was tied up in land, 13% in roads, 6% in fixed assets and 3% in machinery and equipment.
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
- SA Yearbook 2012/13
- Speeches and statements on forestry