Timber traders decry ‘useless’ tree planting levy

31Jan 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
Timber traders decry ‘useless’ tree planting levy

TIMBER traders in Rufiji district, Coast region, have expressed concern over tree planting levy they have been paying for the past 20 years without any initiative being made to plant trees in their respective areas.

Timber traders

They claim that despite such fee payment, forests have remained without new trees, posing a threat to the existence of forests in the district.
Traders complained that for more than 20 years they have been paying the levy but nothing new has been done about developing forests in the district.
This was revealed during a recent Mama Misitu tour campaign funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.
Dickson Kambuga, a trader at Rufiji who used to transport timber to Dar es Salaam, explained that every trader was required to pay a tree planting levy, which was 5 per cent of the value of the trees purchased. They had been told that the money was used to develop forests in the district.
He cited an example of Mkongo tree which is currently sold at Sh 235,520 per cubic foot; therefore, timber traders are required to pay Sh 11,776 for each tree they purchase.
The prices of other trees per cubic foot are Mninga Sh 235,520; Msekeseke 233,520; Mtondoro Sh. 176,640; Mnangu Sh 88,320; Mndundu Sh 116,230; Mtanga Sh.116,230, and Mkuruti Sh 176,640.
The traders are required to pay 5 per cent of each tree according to the price, regardless the number of trees which will be purchased.
Kambuga claimed that as the main forest stakeholders in the district, they had never seen any forest development activity being taken since they embarked on the timber business.
“No specific answer is provided by the authorities when we query about this. We want to know where exactly our money goes because they fail to implement the targeted goals of developing forests,” Kambuga explained.
Milton Mtereke, another timber trader in Rufiji, said there was no need for traders to continue paying the fee because nothing had been done with it; so, where does it go?
“The money is paid to the District Forest Officer (DFO) but we have never seen even a report that states where exactly the money goes or any evidence that shows the district has ever developed the forest in any way,” he said.
Mtereke requested the government to let the traders themselves do the job, arguing that instead of losing money it would be beneficial if they planted the trees themselves.
The traders complained that the DFO and Tanzania Forest Agency Service (TFS) were there for collecting revenue only and not for developing forests, adding that they put up a lot of road barriers purposely for collecting revenue and sidelined their main duty of developing forests.
According to the traders, there were 17 check points from Rufiji to Dar es Salaam where they were supposed to stop and pay dues increases.
Mtereke said, “Before I used to pay bribes at some of the road blocks, but since refused to do so all of my vehicles have been blacklisted and my drivers face many challenges on their way to Dar es Salaam.”
“No peace of doing this business in this district because the authority denied their duties and focus on money, we request the government to interfere in order to help traders to do business in peaceful environment.” He complained
Rajab Nelson a carpenter at Rufiji complained that the TFS was the reason for carpenters to avoid paying tax because they are required to pay Sh.120, 000 as a tax for transporting one bed from Rufiji to Dar es Salaam
“In order to avoid loss by paying that big amount of tax, carpenters tried to transport beds to Dar es Salaam using panya roads because if they will pay that big amount they will always get loss.
Mwarami Ally Kwangaya a Rufiji resident commenting that the authority in Rufiji district has contributed a lot to illegal harvest of forest product due to the poor procedures they set.
Kwangaya explained that the village has never benefited from the forest, as they were ignorant about how they could benefit, although the timber business continues daily.
When the Guardian contacted the DFO for comment on the claims, he responded that he was out of office, but added that he could not comment to the press without being authorized by the council director.

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