The Zambia National Association of Sawmillers (ZNAS) has rejected the decision by Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO) to increase the price for pine and eucalyptus (timber) by 25% and 85% respectively.
At a media briefing in Kitwe, ZNAS General Secretary Derrick Chilatu said the association objected to the proposal of hiking prices of timber arguing that ZAFFICO needed to consult widely on the matter.
Mr. Chilatu said the association is surprised that ZAFFICO has started issuing offer letters indicating the new prices which were still under discussion.
He said this development has brought about mistrust between ZNAS and its members and then between ZAFFICO and ZNAS.
Mr Chilatu has since called on the government to intervene in the matter saying the survival of sawmillers business is under threat owing to the manner ZAFFICO was handling timber business.
“Price increment for 2023, on 17 January, 2023; ZAFFICO invited us for a meeting at which they proposed to increase the price for pine by 25% due to the increase of mainly the price of fuel. We objected to this proposal because in 2022, we agreed in writing that they will not increase the price in the year 2023. The meeting ended with both parties agreeing to consult further with our members and agreed to meet later to conclude the discussion. Surprisingly, ZAFFICO started issuing offer letters indicating the new prices which were still under discussion. This has brought about mistrust between ZNAS and its members and then between ZAFFICO and ZNAS. Mode of selling in 2023, ZAFFICO has indicated that in the year 2023, they will be selling using the first come first serve basis, a system that our members have rejected. Opening of sales for 2023, ZAFFICO has informed us that they will open the sales for 2023 today, 20th February, 2023 with new terms and prices which are under discussion with ourselves using the mode of selling stated above while most of our members have not received their offer letters. We find this as unacceptable and unfair as there is no level playing field,” Mr. Chilatu told journalists.
He complained over the manner in which ZAFFICO was treating sawmillers.
“ZAFFICO advertised through the press for people to apply for business with them for 2023 and all our members applied and the process was closed in November, 2022. As part of the process of evaluating the applicants, ZAFFICO was to carry out physical inspections to ascertain the existence of these Sawmillers. It was agreed with ZAFFICO that ZNAS officials will be part of the inspections. Surprisingly, at the commencement of the inspections, ZAFFICO decided to handle the process on their own without even availing a program to us which was contrary to our agreement with them. This shocked us and the inspections were poorly handled. Our expectation was that, ZAFFICO will issue acceptance or offer letters to our members through our Association and that the successful applicants will also be notified through the press as was the case with the advert, but ZAFFICO opted to send the offers through the members WhatsApp phone numbers, a system that has been suspicious and poorly handled,” he said.
Mr. Chilatu continued:”As we speak now, most of our members have not yet received the offer letters other than being told that they have been successful. This has brought panic and worries among our members. The offer letters from ZAFFICO indicate that you are required to accept the offer in writing within seven (7) days from the date of receipt. In the same offer, ZAFFOCO has indicated new prices which have increased by 25% for pine and 85% for eucalyptus, a matter which is still under discussion and not yet concluded. Accepting the offer also entails accepting the terms and conditions under which the business will be conducted; which were not attached, but are also under discussion with ourselves. Despite the incompleteness of the offer package, our members have been forced to accept the offers under duress.”
Mr. Chilatu said the association is demanding that ZAFFICO suspend the sales of pine and eucalyptus until all matters under discussion have been concluded with all associations.
“From the foregoing, as ZNAS, we wish to make the following demands: That ZAFFICO suspends the sales of pine and eucalyptus until all matters under discussion have been concluded with all Associations. ZAFFICO to stick to agreements made with ZNAS. That the first come first serve mode of selling by ZAFFICO be done away with. In the first place, as ZNAS, we would like to make it clear that we are not aligned to any political party as we are a business Association and we work with the Government of the day. Our constitution states clearly that any member holding political office/position shall not be allowed to hold a position in our Association. We wish to state that as an Association, we are very happy with the creation of the ministry responsible for SME’s by the New Dawn Government, a category under which we fall. With the approach that ZAFFICO has taken, the survival of our business is under threat. We would like therefore to appeal to the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr. Hakainde Hichilema who is the father of the nation to intervene in this matter. As an Association, we remain committed to our values of promoting dialogue and peaceful resolution of issues. We shall remain available for engagement at any time and we appeal to our members to remain calm and peaceful as we pursue all the issues using dialogue,” he stated.