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6.0 Industrial wood

The total annual sustainable yield from all industrial plantations is estimated at 575,000 m3, available over the next two decades. If more planting is done, sustainable yield could be increased. Current total consumption by both formal and informal sector is only 33 %. There is therefore untapped potential.

Sustainable wood production is being threatened by forest fires and poor management due mainly to inadequate financial resources. The wood industry has expressed concern about the future if no corrective action is taken now. The decision has already been made by Government to involve private sector in effective management of industrial plantations through various modes of partnerships.


6.1 Formal Primary Processing

The primary wood processing industry in Malawi is essentially a saw milling industry with some complementary production of value added products such as furniture, plywood, block boards and matches. In addition, a substantial volume of firewood is collected for domestic purposes. The formal processing sector requires an annual log intake of 120 000 m3. Conversion efficiency is about 50 %.

Primary production of value added products comprise veneers, plywood and block boards, furniture and laminated beams. ITL are the manufacturers of hardwood beams for the export market (RSA and Zimbabwe) and local construction industry.

Table 3 : Wood Industries and their Approximate Intake




(Intake ~ 41 000)

Wood Industries Cooperation (WICO)

Chinese Timbers

Shire Limited

International Timbers Limited


Steel & Wood Works


(Intake ~ 20 000)


Saydreni Timbers

Lizulu Timbers



(Intake ~ 34 000)


Select Sawmill,


Shaka Timbers

Nzeru za Bambo

Lunyangwe Timbers

Mzimba Sawmill

Nzuzu Forest Company


Table 4 final primary processing output


Final Product






(1 000US$)

Sawn timber


Value added products


31 000

10 000

15 000

8 000

2 200

1 500

2 000



64 000

5 500


Other secondary manufacturing of timber product comprises mainly furniture for local market. These are mainly located near the major urban centres of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Some prominent furniture and furniture component manufacturers include Mapanga Furniture, Vision Furniture, SMK, Sunder Furniture, Capital Furniture, and Wudsteel.

The production wood processing industry is geared towards the supply of low-cost products of the local market. An estimate of current export volumes is 6500 m3. Most of the products are exported within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.

The total annual value of value added wood products is estimated at US$ 4 million, representing an output of about % of the GDP of Malawi. About 2500 people are employed by the formal sector of which 15 % associated with harvesting.

6.2 Informal Pitsawying

An important feature of the saw milling sector of Malawi is the preponderance of informal or pit sawing operations. These operations are spread amongst all industrial plantations. There are also numerous pit sawyers on both private and customary land forests, who depend on forests and trees for their livelihoods. It is estimated that the pit sawyers and mobile saw millers produce more than 17,580 m3 of sawn wood annually out of 80,000 m3 log intake (DFID, 2000) The value of the output is estimated at US $1.5 million.

There is an increasing trend in the number of pitsawying over the years. This trend is going to continue to increase because of potential pit sawing that can be done both in plantations and on farm. The demand for timber is on the increase in response to increasing population and demand for timber products. For example, there is a growing construction industry, growing furniture demand and growing demand for coffins in the light of AIDS pandemic.

The role of pit sawing must be considered when developing future policies on wood processing in the country.


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