Namibia allows timber exports to resume under strict conditions

WINDHOEK, July 15 (Reuters) - Namibia has resumed the transport and export of timber, mostly rosewood, under strict new conditions ending a ban imposed in March, the Environment and Forestry ministry said on Wednesday.

Demand for furniture in China has led to widespread felling of rosewood in Africa even though the variety is protected under the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

"For now our forest resources are still reasonably good, but the fear is that they will turn into a desert because of uncontrolled timber harvesting," Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said. He added it was difficult to quantify losses so far.

As the ban is lifted, the transportation of timber for local supply and processing will be given priority and the harvesting of new timber is still prohibited.

No export permits will be issued for unprocessed timber and timber logs and blocks may only be loaded and transported from the forest to factories during day-time.

Muyunda said timber and timber products transported without permits will be confiscated and the culprits arrested.

Timber from other countries, including Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, may be processed and transported through Namibia under the supervision of forestry and customs officials.

Nearly 70,000 tonnes of timber were exported through the Nambia's port of Walvis Bay between November 2018 and December 2019, 13% of which was Namibian timber, the latest figures from Namport, the National Port Authority showed.

The largest export destinations for the timber were China and Vietnam.

(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; Editing by Tanisha Heiberg and Barbara Lewis)

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