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Uganda loses Shs23b in illegal timber trade

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Trucks loaded with timber in Kyenjojo District recently.

Trucks loaded with timber in Kyenjojo District recently. The owners load the illegally harvested timber and transport it to Kampala under the cover of darkness. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE. 

By Martin Ssebuyira

Posted  Thursday, November 15   2012 at  02:00

In Summary

Reports show that there is widespread unregulated trade and movement of timber within and across countries in the region.

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Entebbe

A new report on the state of timber in East Africa region shows that Uganda loses Shs23 billion annually in uncollected fees and taxes on timber from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report, ‘Timber movement and trade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and destination markets in the region’ also shows that 80 per cent or 288,000 cubic meters of sawn wood traded in the country is illegal.

“Taxes are based on timber volume but the current practice in Uganda Revenue Authority is to express quantity in kilogrammes on the customs form. Inspection of several customs forms shows anomalies between quantities imported and taxes, indicating under-payment of 43 per cent of taxes in 2010 and 50 per cent in 2011,” the report reads in part.

According to a report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) to be launched at Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe on Monday, the value of timber, on which taxes are based, is outdated leading to loss in substantial revenue through under-valuation.

While opening the WWF regional forestry planning meeting in Entebbe on Tuesday ahead of the launch of the report, State Minister for Water Betty Bigombe said available data shows that there is widespread unregulated trade and movement of timber within and across countries in the region.

The report also says illegal timber from eastern DRC affects the competitiveness of locally produced timber by lowering prices and reducing investors’ willingness to venture into timber processing.

The minister said the vice could be checked if the government and conservation bodies adopted market-based approaches to forest conservation.

The main entry points for timber into Uganda from DR Congo are Bunagana, Mpondwe, Busunga, Ntoroko and Rwebisengo. Others are Goli, Paidha, Vurra, Lia, Odramachako and Oraba in west Nile.

mssebuyira@ug.nationmedia.com