Sappi Forests will be able to supply current and potential timber resources for the proposed Project Amakhulu. The project will have a positive effect on Sappi Forests by balancing timber demand with supply.
Current surpluses of Sappi’s hardwood that are being sold to chip export markets, will be diverted to Sappi Saiccor or exchanged with other timber producers, where possible, to reduce transport costs.
The contracts on existing plantation areas are to be expanded to yield a growing volume that will peak in 2018.
The felling age of its own plantations is to be brought to optimum levels of seven years for coastal timber, and eight years for inland timber. The conversion of 10 000 ha from gum (hardwood) to pine (softwood) will be stopped, increasing Sappi’s plantation yield without adversely affecting the softwood plan.
Sappi Saiccor’s current wood demand is 1 861 000 wet weight tons a year (wwt/y) of hardwood and 200 000 wwt/y of wattle.
The projected timber demand for Project Amakhulu, assessed for a twenty-year period given the proposed changes created, is about 770 000 wwt/y.
The demand for eucalyptus is 2 631 000 wwt/y and for wattle, it is expected to be 200 000 wwt/y.
Timber species preferences and specifications require that the E.macarthurii species be avoided, that other species are treated according to Sappi Saiccor mill specifications, and that wattle will remain at current supply levels. In the event of increased demand for wattle, the supply will be sourced from eucalyptus sources.
Sappi chip plants in Richards Bay and Durban will be diverted to Sappi Saiccor in this plan.
Over the last five years, between 300 000 t/y and 600 000 t/y, have been sold to chip exporters.
In total, around one-million tons a year of timber have been sold to outside markets since 1999.
Should the Saiccor project go ahead, external sales will be stopped, and the timber banked, for future use.
The total projected timber supply requirement will be met by Saiccor’s current own supplies, current contracted external supplies and diverting the above timber to Saiccor.
Temporarily unplanted areas, including areas that are harvested yearly and fire-damaged areas, are expected to be reduced in size to 3,5% from the current 5% of planted area. This is expected to increase the available planted resource by 3 750 ha.
The felling ages will also be returned to optimum rotation in order to yield more volume. The mean annual increment is currently sacrificed as a result of surpluses that create a situation where many plantations are over-aged, resulting in reduced growth rates. This optimisation will result in a quicker turnover on the land.
Future replanting will be done with improved seedlings, sourced from the Sappi research department’s tree breeding programme, and result in better yields for every ha.
These improvements are the result of many years of improved tree breeding, the results of which have been documented since 1990. In addition to improved seedlings, Sappi has developed clones that result in yield improvements of up to 50%. These have been deployed in most of the Saiccor supply areas.
It is expected that with higher efficiency and growth for every ha, higher demand will be placed on soil, and fertiliser, a generally used practice by all forestry companies, is already used at the establishment.
Currently, more than 50% of Sappi-contracted growers are accredited as part of the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) programme. Sappi encourages growers to become FSC-accredited by paying a R6/t premium for FSC timber.
The FSC is an organisation made up of members from all over the world. Initially based in Mexico, the council has moved to Germany.
FSC members have negotiated a certification scheme based on ten principles and nearly 200, criteria which indicate responsible forest and plantation stewardship.
The principles cover legal, social, environmental and economic aspects of forest management.
Only FSC-accredited certifiers can certify forests and plantations against these principles, and criteria, which undergo auditing on a yearly basis, once certification has been achieved.
FSC certification is the largest and most successful independent scheme with 66 947 222 ha of forest and plantations in 77 countries under FSC certification.
FSC certification allows forest products originating from certified forests and plantations to be labelled with the FSC logo, which is an internationally recognised "green label" and a prerequisite by many consumers in the developed nations.
The International Standards Organisation’s ISO 14001 scheme, a system that certifies environmental management systems for any industry and is based on having the correct elements in a management system, promotes sound environmental management and continual improvement. It does not provide for any form of product labelling.
All of Sappi’s own plantations are FSC- and ISO 14000-accredited.
The Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR), a research institute based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is funded by industry to undertake research of specific interest to the forestry industry in South Africa.
Research activities include tree breeding to produce superior growing stock of the main genera used in South Africa, silvicultural research and forest engineering research.
Sappi is also currently working with the ICFR on soil monitoring technology which will further improve currently accepted best practices. Soil erosion is also monitored by external auditors, on a regular basis, and is a requirement in order to retain FSC accreditation.
Sappi uses an advanced planning system where a rolling 20-year plan is updated at least yearly.
This planning tool details all demand and sourcing information, and gives an accurate picture of the sustainability of its operations.
The $460-million Amakhulu project will be commissioned in April this year and will increase chemical cellulose production by 225 000 t/y to about 810 000 t/y.
The expansion will see the construction of a new 300 000-t/y chemical cellulose production line, which will allow the mill to shut down 75 000 t/y of outdated, higher-cost capacity.
The project will include a new internal road transport logistics and weighbridge, the relocation and expansion of the log storage area, the installation of a new chipping line, and the decommissioning of two calcium digesters.