Leaders from Nakuru County have cautioned that the removal of import duty on raw timber will hurt the economy.
Led by Governor Lee Kinyanjui, they expressed disappointment over the decision by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich to reduce import duty on raw timber from 10 percent to zero percent.
Other leaders who feel the move will hurt the economy of the region include MPs Kuria Kimani (Molo) and Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South).
The leaders, who have also been lobbying for a review and possible lifting of the ban on logging, said the move will have an adverse effect on the local timber industry.
According to Governor Kinyanjui, the move will deal a heavy blow to the raw timber industry in Njoro, Elburgon and Molo, which are already reeling under the weight of the ban on logging imposed a year ago.
"With today’s development, our saw millers might not entirely benefit from the affordable housing agenda pie as timber required will mainly come from other countries,” he said.
The leaders said that, already, the moratorium on logging has negatively affected Elburgon, Njoro and Molo towns which were home to major saw millers, leaving owners struggling to service loans they had taken.
“The economies of Elburgon and Molo towns were majorly driven by the timber industry. We appeal to the government to lift the ban to save livelihoods. We will not achieve the Big Four agenda if we criminalise sawmill business,” said Mr Kuria.
Mr Kuria said many youth have already been rendered jobless after sawmills closed shop. The youth worked as loaders, tree cutters, transporters and millers.
Others affected were people who performed other manual duties such as clearing milling zones.
Mr Kinyanjui further argued that as much as it is important to address environmental matters, the national government should have come up with other friendly measures in the reforestation drive.
He has appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to look into other ways to address climate change matters and at the same time empower communities relying on the sector.
However, Governor Kinyanjui lauded the budgetary allocation of Sh2 billion for the National Value Chain Support Programme in the agriculture sector.
He also praised the Sh3 billion set up for the Coffee Cherry Revolving Fund to implement prioritised reforms in the coffee sub-sector.
In the coming financial year, coffee farmers across the country will be able to access money from the fund at a modest interest rate of three percent.
"In Nakuru we are aggressively spearheading the avocado, macadamia, coffee and other cash crop farming for economic empowerment,” he added.