South Africa announces 'world's largest' forest privatisation

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South Africa announces 'world's largest' forest privatisation

South Africa announces 'world's largest' forest privatisation

By Norm Dixon

The South African government on March 4 announced it latest privatisation project: the sale of the rights to 332,000 hectares of state forests.

The sale, worth US$240 million, "represents the largest offering of its kind that has taken place anywhere in the world", boasted minister of public enterprises Stella Sicgau and minister of water affairs and forestry Kadar Asmal in a joint statement.

The African National Congress government is offering long-term leases on the forest land and the rights to all timber on the land, as well as five sawmills and other equipment. The state-owned South African Forestry Company will be sold, as will 50% of the commercial forests of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The remaining 50% will be sold after three years.

Likely buyers include several European, North American and Asian combines, as well as South Africa's timber and paper giants, Mondi and Sappi.