Timber prices up as ban on logging bites

By Milliam Murigi
Friday, February 14th, 2020
oseph Muhia, chairman Ngong Road Jua Kali Association.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

How is the furniture business doing? 

Our major challenge is lack of timber. The cost of wood has gone up three times since the ban.

For instance, we used to buy six inches by one inch (6”x1”) pieces of wood at Sh18 per foot, today its Sh45.  

We are forced to buy trees from individuals, making it an expensive affair considering that we are getting the raw materials from different individuals in different counties.

Costs of glue, electricity and transport have risen in the last three years. Nails that cost Sh70 per kg are costing Sh135 per kg.

Though we have managed to deliver, the future of the wood industry is not bright if the government’s ban on looging of trees in public forests stays. Actually, there will be a crisis in construction and affordable housing. 

So what can be done to reverse this?

The government needs to sell to us all the trees, which were cut and left lying in the forests before the ban was effected. Otherwise the logs will eventually become a waste. 

The State should not allow the Chinese to import block boards from Beijing in containers— we are losing jobs here. 

We also need to embrace use of technology in this industry considering that once a tree is cut in Kenya, we utilise only 60 per cent of it while the rest becomes a waste. 

In countries such as China, once a tree is cut, it is used 100 per cent. This will help us to fight the deficit. 

Also, we need to embrace fast maturing trees such as bamboo, which have less impact on our environment.

What is the future of the wood industry?

As the population grows, demand for wood products will also grow. This means that the future is bright for carpenters and the industry is projected to grow.

There are also new emerging markets for wood products whose demand must be met.

New designs will rule the industry, which means those working in the industry need more knowledge to handle these designs.

What challenges do you face supplying furniture in the affordable housing programe?

We are on a steep learning curve here. We only used to make pieces of furniture for offices and homes, suddenly we are dealing with bulk orders. We need help from cost accountants and other professionals.

The government agencies have been supportive, particularly Housing PS Charles Hinga and his staff and the MSEs Advisory Unit in the office of the President.

We are now getting advance funding from the State once a supply contract is signed, at about 30 per cent of the order and we appreciate this.

How are you coping? 

We are trying our level best to ensure that we deliver our products on time, but it hasn’t been easy.

For block B at Park Road project in Nairobi, which has 260 units, we are currently installing doorframes and by April we will be done with that block.

We want to use this project to prove that the jua kali sector can also deliver when given the opportunity. 

However, we need space for workshops because here on Ngong Road, the highway is under construction into a dual carriageway. The roadside workshops and kiosks have been evicted.

Some workshops use rented space in Nairobi’s idle plots, but most landlords have been terminating leases as they want to construct apartments or rent out the space to vehicle sellers at higher rates.  

We have sought help from Kenya Industrial Estates, but they told they deal with individuals with title deeds for the plots their business occupies.

What recommendations can you make for the sector?

 We are asking the government to invest in modern equipment and machines in polytechnics and Tvet (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) institutions. Some of these colleges have outdated  equipment.

 Whenever we get these trainees, we are surprised that they are not even familiar with machines in our jua kali workshops. Going forward, need to invest in medren, compurised machines in our colleges and workshops. 

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