1. General information :
Mauritius being a small island of an area of 2000 km2 has limited forest resources. However these forests are strategically located in the uplands and form the catchment areas for the major river systems. Forests play a vital role in soil and water conservation. This is of great significance and importance to agricultural crops, mostly sugar cane plantations, which are cultivated at mid and low altitude.
Although the main objectives of forest management are to enhance the protective and environmental functions of the forest, there is also a limited amount of timber, poles and small wood production.
The annual production of timber and small wood during the last 5 years in Mauritius is given in Annex I.
The total timber production (mostly Pinus elliottii) meets only 30% of our demand for utility timber. All our hardwood requirements is met from imports. Poles are used as scaffoldings whilst untreated pine boards are used for shuttering in the construction of buildings. Branch-wood and other small wood, which were used as firewood until a few years back, are no longer in demand following the removal of duty on cooking gas.
1.1. Imports of Forest Products
Due to limited areas of forests, Mauritius will always be a net importer of timber and forest products. Annex II gives a breakdown of the various imported forest products in terms of volume and weight.
1.2. Import of timber
Most of the hardwood timber and plywood imported are used in the secondary processing industries, mostly furniture and joinery and ship models manufacturing industries. The bulk of forest products is imported from South East Asia, mainly Malaysia and Burma. See Annex III.
1.3. Exports of forest products
There is hardly any export of forest products from Mauritius. Our sources of supply for raw materials are quite far and our potential markets are even further. The great distances from sources of supply and potential markets increase freight costs and reduce our competitiveness. Our immediate neighbours in mainland Africa and Madagascar are either endowed with rich hardwoods or simply cannot afford our increasingly high cost of production. Consequently, there is virtually no export of furniture from Mauritius.