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


Timber processing
FibreSawmillingTreated polesCharcoal
Pulp milling Wood chip Fibre board From which come: (i) paper & paper products (ii) wood productsMining timber Sawn lumber From which come: (i) wood products (ii) wood furnitureTreated polesCharcoal

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. It is important to note that the forest-based industries go beyond wood-processing, furniture, pulp and paper. Through scientific advances like nano-technology they now provide raw material for the clothing and textiles, pharmaceuticals, rheology and food-processing sector.

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

Refer to this heading on the “Forestry” page.

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.


Board Manufacturing

  • Timber board refers to products, which are made by compressing woodchips and other wood residue into a condensed panel by using heat and pressure. The two types of timber board products are (i) particleboard (chipboard), used in in shopfitting, kitchen manufacturing, domestic and office furniture industry amongst others; and (ii) fibreboard, which includes medium density fibre board (MDF), insulation board and hardboard.
  • The furniture manufacturing industry, the largest user of timber boards, is cyclical, with much higher production in the second half of the year, reaching a peak in the last quarter of the year, where manufacturers have to operate optimally.
  • The export market for board products is subjected to production capacity of other world players and the variability of our exchange rate. A weaker Rand favours increased exports and vice versa. Timber boards are primarily exported to India, the rest of Africa, Europe and South America.


Wood Preservation

  • The science of timber preservation entails the treatment of wood to make it more durable and therefore extending its service life.
  • Treated wood products range from sawn timber and engineered timber products to round pole products and these product requirements are specified in South African National Standards (SANS) developed and maintained with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Standards Division. All preservative treated products sold in South Africa have to be certified to comply with the SANS Standards and the certification is done by either the SABS or the South African Technical Auditing Service (SATAS), both of whom are approved accredited certification bodies.
  • All wood preservatives used in South Africa have to be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Wood preservatives are divided into three main groups: (1). Water-borne preservatives, applied in a pressure treatment plant are traditionally organic chemicals dissolved in water. The most commonly used is Copper Chrome Arsenic (CCA), which is a heavy-duty preservative offering a broad spectrum of insecticidal and fungicidal protection. (2). Creosote is an oil-borne preservative, which is applied in an open or pressure treatment plant. It is a heavy duty preservative used primarily to treat wooden poles. (3). Light Organic Solvent Preservatives (LOSP), are named so because the term LOSP describes the solvent carrier of the preservative. This preservative is mainly used for timber mouldings and engineered wood products.

Visit for information on the South African Wood Preservers Association’s industry.


Furniture Manufacturing

  • The South African furniture industry is an important sector in the South African economy, considering both its labour-intensiveness and its potential for the development of SMMEs and improved export capability.
  • Currently the industry employs approximately 26,400 people, spread over 2,200 registered manufacturing firms. It contributes about 1% to manufacturing GDP and 1.1% to manufacturing employment (the dti, 2018).


Wood in Construction

The Timber Roof Truss Industry

The Timber Roofing Industry is a significant user of building timber. There are five key role players, who ensure that the industry delivers on its mandate to produce safe and properly designed roofing structures:

  • System manufacturers who manufacture nail plates, develop and provide software trusses, for the design of nail plated timber roof play an important role in providing the wherewithal to manufacture roof trusses.
  • Engineers with substantial experience and proven competence in timber engineering, provide the technical expertise to the industry.
  • Timber Truss fabricators, who design, manufacture and supply prefabricated nail plated timber trusses to the desired standards.
  • Companies that install and erect prefabricated nail plate timber roof structures.
  • Professional roof inspectors, who are accredited by the ITC and aligned to an approved engineer, are able to inspect timber roof structures for compliance with the National Building Regulation A19.

Visit, website of the Institute for Timber Construction SA.

Timber Frame Construction

  •   SANS 10400 and SANS 10082 – the Code of Practice for Timber Buildings – are incorporated into the National Building Regulations.
  • The estimated total number of timber frame builders nationally is approximately 265. This translates into around 1 550 buildings of an average of 200m2 each per annum. The market share value is therefore around R1.5 billion per annum.
  • With increasing focus on green building principles and reducing the carbon footprint of building structures, timber frame construction is poised to play a much larger role in the future of construction in South Africa.

Visit, website of the Institute for Timber Construction SA.

Thatch Industry

Over the years, the market has seen the move from using creosote poles, to greater use of CCA and Boron treated poles. Creosote poles have formed an integral part of a thatched roof’s character from an appearance point of view. Initially in the early 1980’s only creosote poles were available. Some clients believed that the creosote treatment acted as a repellent to keep insects away. With the growing popularity of CCA treatment, Thatchers were provided with more options. Boron treated poles are favoured by certain clients because of their natural colour as opposed to the green colour of CCA treatment, but do have draw backs in that they cannot be planted in the ground or be exposed to the weather, which does occur with certain aesthetically pleasing designs.

Poles used for thatch roof construction have to meet specific size, treatment and strength requirements for roofs to be of sound and safe construction.

For more, visit the website of the Thatchers’ Association of South Africa,

Source: The brochure available on The Wood Foundation website, 

National strategy and government contacts

  • The forestry, timber, pulp, paper and furniture sector not only has the potential to create more jobs and growth in marginalised areas of South Africa; it is also emerging as a sustainable future sector incorporating bio-refinery and transformative technologies.
  • The forest-based industries are no longer limited to traditional wood-processing, furniture, pulp and paper. Through nano-technology and other scientific advances, they have now progressed to providing raw material for the clothing and textiles, pharmaceuticals, rheology and food-processing sector.
  • Despite its potential, the sector faces major structural challenges around access to raw materials, finance and markets, especially for new applicants. These have held back development. The regional integration initiative being developed by government is aimed at improving access to both raw materials and markets.
Source: The dti’s Industrial Action Policy Plan (IPAP) 2018/19 – 2020/21, which looked at the constraints and opportunities in the wood processing sector. Find the document at

Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)

  • Find the Amended Forest Sector Code (April 2017) in terms of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Act on the dti website.
  • The Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs) regularly identified areas within the forestry, timber, pulp, paper and furniture value chain for support and strengthening. Find these at

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)

Find the forestry linked material at

The old Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) identified this sector as one in which the State play a significant role in ensuring adequate levels of capital investment, more especially in longer rotation timber/sawlog plantations. (APAP, 2015: p 15).

Find out about the South African Furniture Initiative at

Role players



  • Cape Furniture Manufacturers’ Association
  • Paper Manufacturer’s Association of South Africa (PAMSA) represents the country’s pulp and paper producers
  • Fibre Circle is a voluntary extended producer responsibility organisation established by PAMSA to recycle paper and paper packaging. See
  • Sawmilling South Africa (SSA) represents the formal sawmills in the country
  • South African Wood Preservers Association represents timber treaters and preservative manufacturers. Visit
  • The Wood Foundation (TWF) promotes the benefits of growing trees and the use of wood as a preferred material in the construction of homes and the manufacture of all manner of products. See
  • Dendrological Society and Foundation
  • Institute for Timber Construction South Africa
  • South African Utility Pole Association Tel: 033 330 3418 / 083 627 6897
  • Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry of South Africa (TAPPSA)
  • Thatchers’ Association of South Africa
  • Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) Tel: 011 712 0300
  • Find details of Forestry South Africa (FSA) in the “Forestry” chapter or at



SEDA Furniture manufacturing:

  • Furntech Cape Town – 021 510 0080
  • Furntech Durban – 031 579 3883
  • Furntech Johannesburg – 011 672 2182
  • Furntech Mthatha – 047 531 1840
  • Furntech Umzimkhulu – 039 259 0993
  • Furntech White River – 013 750 3066
  • Furntech Nyanga Cape Town – 044 871 0953

Training and research

Also refer to the “Forestry” page.



Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.

  • Paper Online is a useful educational resource which introduces the various stages of paper, and provides a history of paper. See
  • Find the annual Forestry and Wood Products Market Value Chain Profile on the Directorate Marketing web pages at, website of the DALRRD.
  • Find presentations given at the International Finance Corporation (IFC)/Agbiz Water Efficiency in Agri-processing Workshop (2019, March 25). This includes “Water efficiency solutions for the pulp and paper industry”, by Mike Nash of PAMSA. In December 2019, the IFC/Agbiz event was finalised as a report which can also be found on
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email aeinfo [at] for the leaflet “Charcoal production in kilns”, available from ARC-Agricultural Engineering. It is also available in Afrikaans.
  • Pogue, T.E. 2008. A sectoral analysis of wood, paper and pulp industries in South Africa. Pretoria: Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI). Available at,%20paper,%20pulpsa.pdf.
  • International Wood Culture Society 
  • International Wood Collectors Society


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