Raiply Malawi says it does not owe Timber Millers Union anything and has challenged the union to bring evidence of the company’s alleged theft of 2, 000 hectares of blue gum trees in Viphya Plantation.
On Tuesday, last week, the millers held demonstrations to force Raiply to return the 2,000 hectares of trees they said the company harvested from an area belonging to the millers.
But speaking to journalists on Saturday, Raiply’s CEO Thomas Oomen said the company has never harvested trees beyond its concession area of 20, 000 hectares and challenged the millers to bring evidence of the alleged theft.
“Let them come and show us the area which they say is theirs and we have harvested their trees. Let them produce documents for the 2,000 hectares they are talking about,” Oomen said.
“We are working within the law and we have not broken any law of this country,” he added.
Instead, Oomen lamented that Raiply has lost 800 hectares of forest to illegal sawyers who harvest trees in the company’s concession area.
“Fourteen places within our concession area have been encroached and the value of the 800 hectares, today, is K2.1 billion,” he said.
A media visit to Kalungulu, 20 kilometres from the Raiply factory, and Lucheremu showed vast areas of cleared forest. The illegal sawyers camp right inside the forest as evidenced by some shacks.
Some sawyers were seen running away from their shacks when they saw vehicles’ arriving in the area.
“It is not only Raiply that is losing out. Government is also losing out on this because the encroachers are not paying anything to the government,” Oomen said.
Meanwhile, government through the Department of Forestry deployed Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are patrolling the Chikangawa forest and confiscating illegal sawyers’ equipment and timber.
However, the illegal sawyers are still camping within the forest and reportedly cut trees even at night.
Raiply’s Assistant Forestry Manager Elester Mando, who accompanied journalists on a tour of the forest, said the illegal sawyers have a good network of informants who alert one another whenever security personnel come close to their shacks.
“Each time they see us come here, they inform one another and vacate the area to safety. During the night if you come here, I’m sure you will find people [illegal sawyers] working.
“As a way forward, we need to tighten security in the plantation by making sure that nobody operates within the concession area apart from Raiply as a legal concessionaire,” Mando said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :