Continued depletion of forest reserves that stock pine trees used in production of matches and the scanty availability of forex, has sent shivers among producers in the country, with Leopard Matches Malawi Limited and Kuku Matches confirming a volatile environment in the business.
Leopard Matches factory supervisor John Mathandalizwe in an interview on Monday said the situation was dire, and the company will be forced to start importing wood from other countries in the near future.
Said Mathandalizwe: “Michiru Forest Reserve in Blantyre had pine trees and we were using that for production. We were also helping the Department of Forestry to restock the mountain, but due to lack of capacity, the Forestry Department has failed to manage the plants and the mountain is now bare.”
On shortage of forex, Mathandalizwe said the company imports about 80 percent of raw materials required to produce matches.
He said the red head of matches alone requires a combination of 18 chemicals which are all imported .
“This tells you that we need enough forex. Last year in February, we closed production for a month because there was not enough forex in the country. At the moment, forex is available, but not as much as we require,” Mathandalizwe said.
He also disclosed that for packaging, the match boxes are imported from China, and cost them roughly $30 000 (about K21 million) for 20 tonnes, which further increases demand for forex.
On his part, Hassa Jussab of Kuku Matches said most businesses in the country are sailing through troubled waters due to the fluctuation of the kwacha.
“The economy is affecting us badly. Forex is not always available. Even people do not have enough disposable income, which in turn affecting businesses,” he said.
Deputy director for Forestry, responsible for Research, Seed Sampling and Establishment, Dr Tembo Chanyenga, however, blamed matches producers for not being strategic enough.
He said: “How long have these companies been operating? Have they ever thought about owning reserves because they knew that one day all pine trees will be depleted?
Chanyenga said so far pine trees,being planted will only be available for use after 15 to 17 years.