Pests, diseases and fire lead to losses totalling around 27% of the sectors annual harvest, approximately a R938 million loss, and as such, pose a substantial and increasing risk to forestry and the integrated value chain it creates in South Africa.
Ongoing investment over the past three decades into research and protection initiatives by the sector has been relatively effective in reducing their impact and is illustrated by the decline in losses to pests and diseases despite the frequent introduction of new pest and disease threats. In the last few years, however, several new and potentially more devastating pests and diseases established themselves and to manage this escalating threat, a holistic strategic response and greater resources are required.
In 2015, Forestry South Africa (FSA) pro-actively established a National Forests Pests and Diseases Committee (NFPDC) to oversee shared Industry objectives and lead working groups that function independently, driving the implementation of certain priority pest and disease objectives.
The working group structure has proven to be very effective at executing focused Industry interventions. It is also highly adaptive, enabling the consolidation and expansion of working groups in response to the level of threat posed, the expansion of the original Leptocybe working group into the Eucalyptus Pest and Disease working group being a great example of this.
FSA is committed to playing a central role in the collaborative efforts of Industry, research partners and Government, as the sector continues to address the escalating threats posed by pests and diseases and reduce the impact that these threats have on the Industry, Sector and the South African economy in general.
Photo courtesy of: Terry Olckers, UKZN