10. Grower notes
A lot of people don’t know that timber farming is part of agriculture. Timber
farming in South Africa is based on the “farming” of trees. i.e. Planting the
trees in rows and then harvesting the crop in the future.
South Africa practices sustainable timber farming:
• Replacing the trees and sustaining the environment
• Not planting too close to a river edge
• Encouraging bird and animal life
• Independent certification by the Forest Stewardship Council as
There are probably three common-grown trees in commercial farming in
• Eucalyptus: a fast grower, 6 to 10 years to harvest and grade as hard
wood (for paper, rayon, compressed boards, mine props, telephone/
electricity polls). No pruning is needed.
• Wattle, initially brought over from Australia for use in tanning leather
• Pines: a slow grower, 18 years to harvest and grade as a soft wood
(mainly for building planks, house beams and paper). Pruning is
necessary to ensure clean timber for the timber industry
Farming with Timber: some considerations
• Entering timber farming is quite a complicated process largely because
it is very capital intensive. One has to buy a farm and after adjusting
timber, it will be a long waiting process before you have any income.
• Timber farming in South Africa is regulated and a permit is required to
have plantations on your farm. A water permit is also required before
you can start farming with timber.
• First you need to make sure your farm has sufficient rainfall, because
trees need a lot of water. Secondly sufficient soil depth is required
to support tall trees and lastly a market close by is a necessity, because
the biggest cost in timber farming is transporting your timber to the
mills or station.
• Timber farming is largely based on contractors doing the planting,
harvesting and transporting for the farmer or for big companies like
Sappi and Mondi. Your average timber farmer cannot afford to have
his own transport business as this is extremely capital i