Malaysia’s timber exports hit RM9.1 billion for the January-May period this year, a 2.3% increase from RM8.9 billion recorded in the corresponding period last year.
Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok is hopeful that the timber industry’s performance this year will be able to exceed that of 2018.
In 2018, the timber industry recorded RM22.3 billion in exports, contributing 1.6% to the country’s gross domestic product and 2.2% to total exports.
“Malaysia is one of top ten furniture exporters in the world, this shows that we have the skills and expertise to produce good furniture and timber products,” she said at the launch of Malaysian Timber Conference 2019 today.
Kok highlighted that in the first five months of 2019, the furniture industry contributed 36% to Malaysia’s total timber-related exports, significantly higher than the 12.7% in the same period last year.
On the export market, Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) chairman Datuk Low Kian Chuan said that Malaysian timber products are highly regarded in the market.
“Currently, the biggest competition to our local tropical timber is non-wood products. Although our timber is still widely accepted by the market, it’s just that some negative image portrayed by certain quarters that we are not taking care of our forests.”
To illustrate his point, Low pointed out that in the past, Malaysia used to produce over 20 million cubic metres (m3) of timber per year, but now it is producing only 3.5-3.8 million m3 annually.
“Despite the drop in volume, we could still retain similar revenue by doing value-added processes.”
Moving forward, Low said, the timber players have to be more aggressive and use other materials such as wood waste and more plantation timber, which would sustain the growth.
However, Malaysia’s timber ambition does not detract from its commitment made at the Rio Earth summit in 1992, to maintain more than 50% of its forest cover.
Kok disclosed today that some 55.3% of Malaysia’s land is under forest cover.
“As a major producer and exporter of timber products, we have made tremendous efforts to ensure that we are able to supply legally harvested timber products that are sourced from sustainably managed forests.”
As of June 2019, Malaysia has 4.34 million hectares of certified forests which are endorsed by the Programme of Forest Certification scheme to meet the demand for certified timber products.