Panels & Furniture Asia Sep/Oct 2020

September / October 2020, Issue 5 | Panels & Furniture Asia IN PERSON | 25 The first set of investors in our Gabon SEZ ecosystem are more into first and second transformation of timber and therefore, our upcoming five-year strategy is as follows: a) Attract industries that aremore focused in third transformation either using panels produced in Gabon SEZ or exotic hardwood available in Gabonese forests. b) Attract investors who will focus on utilising plantation timber as raw material, as we are currently developing big timber plantations which will see a huge availability of plantation timber at a very competitive price. c) Attract additional wood processing units so that the installed capacity in Gabon SEZ can rise to 2 million cubic metres annually. Therefore, there is a lot of scope for additional manufacturers in all segments of timber transformation. There’s no doubt that cheap raw material (eg, timber) is available in Gabon. However, given that infrastructure and logistics have been a challenge inmost African countries, how does Nkok SEZ ensure that the units will not face a shortage of raw materials? The development of an SEZ at Nkok is aimed at creating a sustainable ecosystem for processing of natural resources, primarily timber, in Gabon. When Nkok SEZ was started, Gabon did not have the infrastructure to facilitate the logistics from the forest and the quick evacuation of finished products from Gabon. Gabon SEZ has successfully invested more than US$300 million in developing the new modernised port, railway and truck logistics system to bring raw materials from the interiors of the forest to Nkok SEZ. However, we accept that the logistical cost is slightly higher compared to our competitors. However, as export volumes are increasing, the government and port agencies are more willing to rationalise the port charges. We are quite convinced that in a year or two, these prices will be very competitive. We understand that Gabon SEZ is also operating a log supply chain and sourcing for logs from third parties to ensure constant supply. Are there any plans to ensure the easy availability of logs around the year – especially during the rainy seasons – and at a fair price? Gabon’s rainy season extends from March to April and from October to mid-December, and the availability of logs goes down slightly during these periods since logs harvested in the forest cannot be evacuated during heavy rain. To ensure year-long availability of logs including during the rainy seasons, Gabon SEZ has developed a well-equipped log yard at the railway siding within the SEZ and near to the factories. Spanning over 32 hectares, with a storage capacity of 300,000 cubic metres of logs, this log yard will allow the handling of 2 million cubic metres of logs per annum and ensure steady supply round the year. Additionally, we have six log yards in interiors of the country where we stock logs from nearby forests before transporting them to Nkok SEZ. We have also invested in 100 log trucks and 130 log wagons to ensure the easy and continuous availability of logs all year round. Logs prices are fixed annually and there is no variation throughout the year. A log yard spanning over 32 hectares ensures a year-long availability of logs even during the rainy seasons