By Ayisy Yusof –

KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s timber and timber products exports are expected to reach RM23 billion this year, leveraging on the existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Asean and Oceania countries as well as strong demand from India.

Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) deputy director general Norchahaya Hashim said the target was underpinned by the uncertainty of the global geopolitical scenario such as trade war between China and US, US economic sanctions to Iran and Brexit.

“We aim to achieve about 60 per cent of value-added timber finish products and 40 per cent of primary timber exports by 2020,” he said at a briefing on Timber Market Performance 2018 and Outlook 2019, here, today.

However, she said the target may not be achievable due to shortage of raw materials supplies, labour intensive, lack of innovation and technology, amongst others.

From the period of January to November 2018, the country’s commodity exports stood at RM11.07 billion (54.1 per cent), while the value-added product exports were recorded at RM9.37 billion (45.9 per cent).

Norchahaya said Malaysia’s timber export and timber products are expected to hit RM22.30 billion for 2018, a four per cent decline compared to RM23. 22 billion recorded on 2017.Malaysia’s export of major timber products include Japan, US, India, Korea and China.

“The expected decline is attributed to slower demand from key markets, global economic turmoil and strengthening of the Malaysian ringgit,” she said, adding that the country’s timber exports valued stood at RM20.45 billion as of November 2018.

“We also want to reduce our dependency on natural raw materials from the local forest. About 10 per cent of the country’s timber products are sourced from alternative raw materials such as oil palm trunk and rubber trees,” she added.

She said the country’s import for timber and timber products are expected to reach RM5 billion in 2018 compared to RM4.68 billion in 2017, attributed to higher importation of raw materials from China to produce the finished products. Malaysia imports its timber products mainly from China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

According to MTIB, Malaysia has over 4,000 mills comprising furniture, sawmills, mouldings, plywood, veneer, wood chip, kiln drying, builder’s joinery carpentry and medium density fibreboard.

She said Peninsular Malaysia made up about 83 per cent of mills, while the remaining 17 per cent is in Sabah and Sarawak.

“We remain committed to achieve RM25 billion export value for timber and timber products by 2020, while focusing more on downstream processing.

“We also want to promote the use of our alternative raw materials oil palm trunk and rubber trees to save our natural forests and make use of the abundance of resources for the rubber and oil palm industries,” she said.

Norchahaya said MTIB also committed to continue undertaking the forest replanting programme on 140,000 hectares of land throughout the country.

“To date, we have planted or covered about 85 per cent or 114,000 hectares of the total target by 2020. We planted about 600 trees per hectare since 1997 with the total government’s budget allocation of RM1.045 billion.

“There are about eight species of trees involved for the project such as rubber trees, mahogany and bamboo trees,” she said.

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