Table of Contents


Also refer to the “Forestry” chapter in the “Forestry and industrial crops” section.


1. Overview

This chapter looks at what happens downstream of the plantations: sawmilling, furniture making, paper and pulp production etc.

Timber processing
Fibre Sawmilling Treated poles Charcoal
Pulp milling Wood chip Fibre board From which come: (i) paper & paper products (ii) wood products Mining timber Sawn lumber From which come: (i) wood products (ii) wood furniture Treated poles Charcoal

The future demand for wood will depend on factors like global population growth, increasing living standards and wood’s cost competitiveness compared to substitute products.


2. International business environment

The products are categorised according to the harmonised system (HS), an international method for classifying products for trade purposes, with categories like wood chip, wood charcoal, timber board, mining timber, paper (Newsprint), paper (kraftliner) and poles and treated poles. Find more on the World Customs Organisation website,

Other relevant websites include:

  • International Wood Products Association
  • International Council of Forest & Paper Associations (ICFPA) – a list of their global members is on its website, One of these is the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA).
  • Pulpapernews has international news for the pulp and paper industry,
  • Included in FAOSTAT’s international statistics are those of forest products. Go to

South Africa: imports and exports

Paper, wood and articles of wood from South Africa are mainly exported to other African countries, fewer volumes landing in Asia, Americas, Europe and Oceania (DAFF, 2015). The Forestry Market Value Chain Profile (see heading 6) looks at where South African exports like newsprint paper, fuel wood (sawdust), hoopwood (split poles) and wood charcoal go. It also looks at imports.


3. Local business environment

Pulp & Paper Industry

The industry branched into the global export market in the 1980s, and since then has blossomed into a R28 billion industry (PAMSA, 2016). The sector has remained on a positive growth trajectory, with its net positive trade balance rising from R5.26 billion in 2010 to R10.7 billion in 2016 (the dti, 2018). Find statistics on the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) website,

For more information, see the PAMSA website and also, website of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry of Southern Africa (TAPPSA).


  • The sawmilling industry is labour intensive and a key contributor to the rural economy.
  • Sawmill sizes in South Africa are usually expressed in terms of total annual log intake. Of the 201 sawmills currently in operation, 176 fall in an individual mill volume intake bracket up to 50 000 m3 p.a. These sawmills only produce 39% of the industry’s volume. The remaining 25 sawmills, with individual volume intakes of more than 50 000 m3 p.a. produce the remaining 61% of annual production.
  • In addition, South Africa produces ±200 000 m3 of hardwood lumber p.a. (this excludes mining timber). More than 90% of the hardwood lumber is Eucalyptus grandis. Small volumes of Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) and Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) lumber are produced in the Southern Cape region.
  • South African sawmillers have learned to survive and prosper in an international arena with no tariffs or import controls protecting the domestic market, thus securing the livelihood of the 30 000 people who work in the sector.

Find updates on, website of Sawmilling South Africa.