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2. Description of commercial timber harvesting

2.1 Areas and species in timber-productive forests

The portion of Mozambique (Map 1, Appendix 1) covered to various degrees with trees or other woody vegetation amounts to about 620,000 km2 or 78% of the territory. Productive forests incorporate vegetation types where trees and bushes occupy at least 25%. Classified as having high, medium, or low productivity, the productive forests cover in total an area of about 20 million hectares or 25% of the terrestrial surface of Mozambique (SAKET 1994).

The list of arboreal species producing timber of commercial value covers 118 species and is divided into five classes of value (“precious” and classes 1 through 4). It includes eight species protected by law: Diospyros mespiliformis (Ébano or jackal-berry), Spirostachys africana (Sândalo or Tamboti), Dalbergia melanoxylon (Pau Preto or African blackwood), Berchemia zeyheri (Pau Rosa or pink ivory), Guibourtia conjugata (Chacate), Ekebergia capensis (Inhamarre or Cape ash), Milicia excelsa (Tule or Iroko), and Entandrophragma caudatum (Mbuti or bottle tree) (RIBEIRO 1992). Physical, mechanical, and processing properties of 52 arboreal species are already known (BUNSTER 1995).

The most demanded commercial species (Table 2.1) cover only 20% of productive-forest’s timber stock, while the remainder are species with commercial value but which are less sought-after by domestic and export markets.

Table 2.1 Names, main provinces of origin, and main uses of the most demanded species.

Commercial name

Scientific name

Primary sources (Province names)

Main uses


Pterocarpus angolensis

Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Sofala

Logs (Export), Lumber, Veneer


Afzelia quanzensis

Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Inhambane

Logs (Export), Lumber, Parquet


Millettia stuhlmannii

Cabo Delgado, Sofala, Manica

Logs (Export), Lumber, Parquet


Erythrophleum suaveolens




Androstachys johnsonii

Inhambane, Gaza

Parquet (Export), Sleepers


Khaya nyasica

Sofala, Manica

Logs (Export)

Pau Preto

Dalbergia melanoxylon

Cabo Delgado

Logs (Export)

Pau Ferro/Rosa

Swartzia madagascariensis

Cabo Delgado, Zambézia

Logs (Export)


Brachystegia spiciformis

Zambézia, Sofala, Manica

Sleepers, Lumber

Messassa encarnada

Julbernardia globiflora



Source: compiled from DNFFB (Direcçăo Nacional de Florestas e Fauna Bravia) reports, 1990-98.

2.2 Potential for sustainable timber extraction

Table 2.2 summarises the productive-forest area and its sustainable extraction volume for Mozambique’s 10 provinces and for the country as a whole. Low increment of commercial species as well as reduced stocks in provinces dominated by already over-exploited forests restrict the potential for sustainable timber use. Potential extraction intensity in the provinces ranges between 0.007 and 0.043 m3/ha, and attains at national level a sustainable extraction intensity of 0.025 m3 per hectare, which is equivalent to a sustainable timber extraction volume of 500,000 m3 per year from the total productive-forest area of 20 million hectares.

Table 2.2 Productive-forest area and potential for commercial timber extraction.


Area of productive forest (FP, ha)

Potential for sustainable extraction, m3/year

Annual harvest potential per hectare of FP (m3/ha·year)

































Cabo Delgado












Source: adapted from SAKET 1994

Extraction potential is additionally restricted by the industry’s demand for only a few arboreal species sharing merely 20% of the of the productive-forest area (Section 2.1). Consequently, species most frequently sought after can be extracted up to a volume of just about 100,000 m3 a year. On the basis of their volumetric sustainability, harvesting should cover all species with commercial value, in order to make the most of sustainable timber potential and make extraction both technologically and logistically more viable.

2.3 Structure of the forest industry

Commercial timber harvesting, transport, and processing are carried out by logging companies and sawmills. Although several new medium-scale companies have been founded in recent years, Mozambique’s industry comprises mostly small-scale companies with low technological capacities and low levels of mechanisation. The few mechanised companies—one plantation company, two veneer and plywood companies, four parquet companies, and a paper company (recycled paper and imported pulp)—are producing on a low level or have suspended production altogether.

Most companies involved in commercial logging and processing are labour-intensive enterprises with few machines. A total of 33 logging companies have integrated a processing unit with simple technical equipment. There are also eleven construction companies, ten furniture factories and one shipbuilding factory possessing their own logging units (DNFFB 1999). Based on a sector study (RIBEIRO 1992) and the annual report of the forest administration (DNFFB 1992, mentioned by CUCO 1993), 74 logging companies and 87 sawmills are involved in logging and processing timber from native forests.

Table 2 shows that in 1992, 77% of the logging companies and 90% of the sawmills were small-scale enterprises with technological capacities below 2,500 m3. Comparing the capacities in the table with actual production volumes (120,000 m3 and 32,000 m3 respectively), in 1998 the forest industry attained utilization rates of 51% in logging and 33% in processing.

Table 2.3 Structure of forest industry (logging companies and sawmills).


Logging companies (capacity, m3)


<  2500-7500-12500  >


(capacity, m3)


<  2500-5000  >

Cabo Delgado

     7     (57,700)

    4         2                  1

     9     (12,400)

Structural data for sawmills not available by province


     3     (10,000)

    2         1

     6      (2,900)


     8     (36,000)

    5         2       1

   12     (19,350)


     4     (30,000)

    1         1       2

   10      (7,350)


     1      (2,500)


     3      (1,000)


   33     (63,500)

  28         4       1

   10     (14,050)


   14     (17,500)

  13         1

   10      (2,100)


     2     (16,000)

    1                             1

     4      (7,900)


     1      (2,000)


     7      (4,650)


     1         (500)


   16     (23,850)


   74 (235,700)

  57       11       4         2

   87   (95,550)

78       4        5

Sources: RIBEIRO 1992 and CUCO 1993. The table excludes production of timber from plantations.

2.4 Analysed companies and their activities

Five companies were studied in detail for this report. The locations of these companies’ operations within Mozambique are shown in Map 1 (Appendix 1), with more detail shown in Maps 2-6, also in Appendix 1.

ECOSEMA, in the Province of Sofala (Map 2, Appendix 1), was founded in 1995 when it started logging in an area close to Condue in the District of Cheringoma. In 1996 it acquired a new logging license with an area of 53,000 ha east of the road to Inhaminga, and a permitted extraction volume of 2,000 m3. Initially the headquarters were situated in Beira, but in 1997 they were moved to Dondo. The technical base was located in Muanza, 130 km north of Beira, on road Nş 213 between Dondo and Inhaminga. It comprised a landing and a fenced yard with carriage and band-saw (under construction), workshop, space for parking vehicles, fuel and water tanks, and a mobile home. In 1996 when the case study was conducted, the company produced 600 m3 of Umbila logs (Pterocarpus angolensis). In 1998 the company suspended logging due to a shortage of commercial timber in the area of the granted cutting license.

ÁLVARO de CASTRO, in the Province of Gaza (Map 3, Appendix 1), was founded in 1925. It has always been operating in the same concession area of 20,000 ha. In the first decades the company’s sawmill specialized in the production of sleepers. After independence it started to manufacture parquet scantlings for export. In the recent past the company has worked with logging licenses of 100 m3, requested sequentially as sawmill production progressed. The headquarters are located in Maputo. The technical base in Macuáquŕ, in the District of Manjacaze, 330 km north of Maputo, consisted of houses for logging managers and workers, a log-yard, the sawmill with a storeroom for final products, a shelter with generator, and an administrative section with office and medical post. In 1996 and 1997, due to the machinery’s continuously declining technical availability, the company manufactured only 30 m3 of parquet scantlings of Mecrusse (Androstachys johnsonii), which equals 150 m3 of logs per year. The company closed down production in January 1998.

MITI, in the Province of Cabo Delgado (Map 4, Appendix 1), was founded in 1995. Since then the company has worked with logging licenses in three areas. The logging area of Muatide covered about 50,000 ha. The production was intended primarily for log export. Only logs rejected by the importers were converted into lumber for the local market. The headquarters were located in Pemba. The technical base in Muatide, 291 km north of Pemba, comprised a landing and a fenced yard with the foreman’s cabin, a porch for equipment storage, as well as fuel and water tanks. At the main log-yard in Muxara, 12 km west of Pemba, the logs were stored, scaled, and prepared for sale and shipping according to species and dimension. Rejected logs were sawn into boards with a mobile band-saw. In 1998 when data were collected, the company attained a production level of 1600 m3 of Umbila logs (Pterocarpus angolensis) of which 400 m3 were converted into lumber.

Originating from a privatised state company, SOMANOL, in the Province of Nampula (Map 5, Appendix 1), was founded in 1995 and since then has worked on the basis of licenses in five logging areas. The company’s headquarters and sawmill are located in the city of Nampula. The factory consists of a log-yard, sawmill, two storerooms, workshops for saw-doctoring and vehicle maintenance, carpentry, joinery, manager’s house and four bungalows. Production was laid out for manufacturing of locally marketed school furniture, doors and windows, as well as truck decks. Due to the lack of transport vehicles, extraction in 1998 was restricted to Mutivasse/Tchaiane, which was the most easily accessible logging area, 49 km north of Nampula, covering 40,000 ha. There the company extracted 480 m3 of Murroto logs (Cordyla pinnata) for factory processing.

ARCA, (formerly ISPO), in the Province of Zambézia (Map 6, Appendix 1), is involved in logging and timber trading. The company’s headquarters are located in Mocuba. In recent years the company has operated on the basis of licenses in several logging areas. In June 1998 it started logging in Mauela, in the northern part of Maganja District, 252 km northeast of Nicoadala. In this logging area the entire production, 2400 m3 of Mucarala (Burkea africana), Umbila (Pterocarpus angolensis), Morroto (Brachystegia spiciformis) and Muanga (Pericopsis angolensis) logs were sold to Serraçőes Reunidas da Zambézia (SRZ), which provided ARCA with a front-end loader for second loading and organized second transport from the main landing in Mauela to the sawmill in Nicoadala, 37 km north of Quelimane.

Table 2.4 summarizes the activities, equipment, and transport distances in logging, extraction and processing carried out by the five companies. (For additional details on the equipment used, see Table 3.2.) The operations observed among the five companies used similar equipment and working methods. Chainsaws or two-man crosscut saws were used for felling and crosscutting, tractors for skidding, loading and first transport (the latter using attached trailers), and trucks with flat-bed semitrailers for second transport. Differing somewhat from the norm were manual loading at ÁLVARO de CASTRO, mechanised second loading at ARCA, and first transport by truck at MITI.

Concerning the integration of second transport and processing, the studied companies were heterogeneous. ECOSEMA and MITI, after hauling logs initially to a landing at the technical base within or close to the logging area, then loaded the logs on trucks for long-distance transport to the final destination at the provincial capital. ARCA delivered logs to a main landing within the logging area; second loading and transport were then undertaken by SRZ, a separate sawmilling company. ÁLVARO de CASTRO and SOMANOL, the former because its processing unit was located near the logging area, the latter for lack of transport vehicles, hauled logs directly from the logging area to the sawmill, without intermediate landings. They processed timber with a stationary sawmill, while MITI had a mobile band-saw set up in its main log-yard. ECOSEMA’s sawmill at the technical base was not yet operational in the year the company was visited. Processing at SRZ’s sawmill was not integrated into this study.

In summary, ECOSEMA and ARCA/SRZ sold logs in or close to the provincial capital (with SRZ doing second loading and transport for ARCA), while ÁLVARO de CASTRO and SOMANOL produced sawn products (parquet scantlings and truck decks, respectively), the former close to the logging area and the latter in the provincial capital. MITI sold 75% of its annual production as logs and the remainder as sawn timber in the province capital.

Table 2.4 Matrix of activities, technologies, transport distances, and final products.

The companies in this study employed between 17 (ARCA) and 22 (ECOSEMA) workers in logging and first transport. Between 11 (ÁLVARO de CASTRO) and 18 (SOMANOL) were employed in subsequent activities. Felling and crosscutting were carried out by one or two teams (each team consisting of two crosscut-saw operators or one chainsaw operator and assistant). Extraction and transport teams were made up of a tractor or truck driver and assistant. Between 4 and 6 workers were employed in loading. The same number of employees prepared skidtrails and maintained forest roads. Except for tractor and truck drivers, workers were untrained. They were generally recruited in the villages within or adjacent to the logging area.

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