Namibia: Charcoal in Containers Threatens Exports

NAMIBIA produces more than 200 000 tonnes of charcoal a year from invader bush, with more than 80% of this destined for different export markets.

The charcoal is exported to South Africa, Japan and Pakistan, and there have been efforts to access the Turkish market.

Namibian charcoal has also broken into the United States market together with beef and beer.

However, according to the Namibia Agricultural Union, these exports are threatened by a ban by shipping companies because of the danger of charcoal catching fire in containers during transportation, mainly through spontaneous combustion.

The NAU says in its latest newsletter: “In order to protect our charcoal industry from a charcoal ban, the Charcoal Association of Namibia (CAoN) held a strategic meeting with some of the shipping lines transporting containers filled with charcoal.”

According to the union, a number of issues were discussed at the meeting, including imposing a ban on loading charcoal into containers on farms where there are no proper packaging facilities.

The association says there are many discrepancies around containers required to be packed according to standard operating procedures of shipping lines.

“This poses a danger for containers burning on a ship,” said CAoN, adding that charcoal producers underestimate the danger of not weathering charcoal properly.

“Weathering will be done by processors as producers do not weather charcoal properly,” said CAoN.

During the discussions, a new concept was introduced – stabilisation of charcoal. This is the process a producer must follow before charcoal can be transported to the processor as only processors can guarantee weathering.

In addition, a new service will be introduced whereby anybody who wants to ship charcoal will be inspected randomly to ensure proper weathering procedures have been followed.

A combined general standard will be set up for all shipping lines, outlining the common procedures that must be followed by all.

Individual shipping lines will still have their own procedures prescribed by their head offices, said CAoN.

According to the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade, Namibia’s charcoal industry can be considered a basic industry suitable for technological upgrading to facilitate its transition into an internationally competitive manufacturing industry.

The ministry believes charcoal production is one of the promising agro-processing industries that enhances in-depth value addition and the Growth at Home Strategy.

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