An overview of The Wood Preservation Industry in South Africa

IRG/WP 18-50343

Bruce Breedt

South Africa boasts a total land area of 1,22 million km2 or 122 million hectares of which approximately 1% is cultivated with commercial plantation forests. The species planted are exotic species i.e. pine, eucalyptus and wattle. The commercial forests supply raw material to a diverse forestry sector and industries including Paper and Pulp, Sawmilling, Mining Timber, Poles, Charcoal, Wood chemicals, Fibre and Textiles, etc. Timber preservation in South Africa was first introduced in the early to mid-1900s when the degradation of structural timber by wood destroying insect started occurring in buildings at a scale of economic concern. Apart from subterranean termites native to southern Africa, that was also a cause of some of the destruction, further destruction by wood borers and dry-wood termites not native to our shores became an increasing problem, especially around the time of the Second World War. The arrival and spread of alien wood destroying agents to our coastal and inland areas lead to the introduction of regulations and standards for the treatment of timber and the use of treated timber in South Africa since 1946. Regulations and standards pertaining to the sale and used of treated timber has been in existence since then although under varying regulating and government authorities. In the early 1960s regulations were also taken up in building regulations and standards, and other regulations related to registration of wood preservatives as agricultural remedies and the use thereof has also become applicable. The timber preservation industry as a subsector is a small part of the total forestry sector, and it is estimated that between 1.3 to 1.5 million m3 of timber in total is preservative treated at ± 115 timber treatment plants spread all over the country, with the majority situated in the commercial plantation forest regions of Kwa Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo. The treatment plants produce a limited variety of treated timber products ranging from mostly sawn and machined timber used in construction, landscaping and leisure applications as well as poles used for utility lines, agricultural purposes, fencing and building and construction etc. As such the majority of plants fall under the category of treatment plants integrated with Sawmilling or as Wood pole treatment plants. Because of the climatic and geographical exposure and end application and market demands and needs, the wood preservatives used in South Africa remain predominantly CCA and Creosote with a very limited volume of timber being treated with other preservatives including waterborne preservatives such as borate and CuAz, and Azole Permethrin based LOSP preservatives. The local timber preservation industry is mostly self-reliant with regards the local supply and manufacture of the two main preservative types, i.e. CCA and Creosote as well as timber raw material sourced mainly within South Africa and also from Swaziland and Zimbabwe. South Africa and its people, in relation to many other countries, do not utilize timber, including preservative treated timber to its fullest potential. This can in part be explained because of a culture of steel, concrete, stone and brick and mortar deeply entrenched into our societal frame of reference over the last 350 or so years. In addition a limited volume of raw material available from the overall local timber resource cultivated is destined for building and construction purposes.

Keywords: Keynote

Conference: 18-04-29/05-03 Johannesburg, South Africa

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