SFIA hopes government will continue to support local furniture industry

KUCHING: The Sarawak Furniture Industry Association (SFIA) hopes that the state government will ban the export of timber logs to encourage the growth of the local furniture industry.

SFIA president Lai King Min highlighted that the export of timber logs has led to the deterioration of the state’s furniture industry, even causing the closures of many factories or manufacturers over the years.

“The Sarawak furniture industry had a slow start approximately 50 years ago. Approximately 30 years ago, the industry started to grow as the popoulation increased and people started to spend on furniture and their lifestyle,”

“Timber was plentiful and there were timber also coming in from Kalimantan, Indonesia. With good timber-furniture exports from the state, sales started to increase and factories were doing very well,” he said.

However, Lai noted that as soon as Indonesia banned the export of logs and rough-sawn timber, the furniture-exporting factories here started to die out and has never recovered since.

At the same time, there was reduced timber supplies in Sarawak as all raw materials have been and are still being exported to other countries.

“This is because Sarawak timber logs are being exported and not going downstream. We don’t have the policy to support the local industry, therefore a lot of furniture factories started to go bankrupt,” he said.

He stressed that Sarawak to date, unlike in West Malaysia which supports the local manufacturers and has banned the export of timber, still exports the logs and other semi-processed raw materials like plywood

“Hopefully, in the near future, (the state government) will ban the export of logs so that it will encourage the local industry to grow,” Lai said.

“One log that they export, if they convert that log into furniture, that furniture will be worth at least five to 10 times more than the value of that ‘raw material’ log.

“Sarawak needs some sort of manufacturing industry to grow, we cannot keep on exporting raw materials such as (timber) logs. We hope the government will support the downstream industry so that it would benefit Sarawak more in future. If not, Sarawak will always be a raw material producer.

“We hope the government will support the furniture industry by ensuring that there are raw materials available in the local market. Without that assurance, the downstream industry would not grow and provide employment for university graduates.”

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