Tuesday, October 15

Expo launchpad for SMEs to go global

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Awang Tengah (centre) testing the honey on display at a booth in the SMEs Expo as others, including Nansian (left) and Julaihi, look on. — Photo by Kong Jun Liong

KUCHING: Entrepreneurs involved in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the state must be bold enough to benchmark against the best so they can compete in the global market.

Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said this was especially pertinent in an increasingly competitive international business environment where growing expectations continue to be assessed against cost, quality, technology, efficiency and timelines.

“It is thus imperative that our SMEs are equipped with the necessary skills, capability, technical know-how and best practices to remain resilient, effective and competitive,” he said.

Awang Tengah, who is also Industrial Development Minister and Minister of Public Utilities, stressed this when representing Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem at the launch of Sarawak Timber and SMEs Expo 2015 and SMEs Week 2015 at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here yesterday.

He said the exhibition, which also involved participants from neighbouring countries, was an opportune time for SMEs to enhance capacity and capability by fine-tuning business models, redefining strategies, upskill workers, adopt new technologies, as well as venturing into new and emerging markets.

“This expo should be seen as a strategic collaboration between the local timber suppliers, furniture manufacturers and SMEs towards building a strong market for Sarawak-made products.

“I believe the participation of international exhibitors would enhance business networking and at the same time promote Sarawak’s products. There is tremendous potential for Sarawak to enhance and develop synergies in trade and investment with other business parties through this expo,” he added.

Meanwhile, he commended the organiser for the recreation of the House of Acacia, the R&D project on Acacia by Sarawak Timber Industries Corporation (STIDC) and Samling Group of Companies and the introduction and the creation of Bamboo Gallery.

“It is my fervent hope that these initiatives will translate into producing and creating an attractive branding and image for Sarawak-produced furniture and timber products in the future that are able to create its own niche market internationally,” he asserted.

He said the House of Acacia has in fact proven that our native Acacia species could be utilized to produce high quality furniture and timber products for both local and international markets.

He also pointed out that Acacia has been identified as the most suitable species to be planted and also has great potential as an alternative supply of raw material to the industry in future.

“Its nature as fast-growing and associated with eco and green products would provide a competitive edge to the industry to address the issue of sustainability in the supply of raw material,” he suggested.

Awang Tengah said it was undeniable that Sarawak was an important player in the international market for tropical timber and timber products, adding that the timber industry was one of the sectors that contributed tremendously to the state’s economy for the past few decades despite various challenges in the way.

He disclosed that the sector will continue to have high growth and immense potential and currently occupying fourth position in export earnings to the state after liquefied natural gas (LNG), crude petroleum & petroleum products and palm oil.

“Export of Sarawak timber products was recorded at RM7.3 billion in 2014 which accounted for 6.0 per cent of the state’s total export earnings. The export has shown an increase of 1.3 per cent compared to its performance in the previous year.

“Sarawak exports account for about 36.0 per cent of Malaysia’s total timber products export of RM20.5 billion in 2014 but on the other hand, Sarawak furniture sector contributed only RM40 million or less than 1.0 per cent of the country’s wooden furniture exports in 2014,” he said.

Awang Tengah said given such circumstances, the furniture industry players in Sarawak should strive towards achieving economies of scale in terms of production and product quality.

In this respect, he urged the industry players to move forward in tandem with the government efforts in developing the furniture industry towards achieving better global position by year 2030.

“The relevant agencies and timber industry stakeholders should further pursue collaboration on research and development (R&D) initiatives to ensure higher value return and sustainable timber industry in the future.

“R&D initiatives should include the improvement of natural forest, planted forest quality and productivity, harvesting methodology and downstream industry products,” he said.

Those present at yesterday’s ceremony included Assistant Minister for Industrial Development (Investment & Promotion) Datuk Julaihi Narawi, Assistant Minister of Industrial Development and Assistant Minister of Community Services Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie, Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Office Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais, Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Office (Promotion of Technical Education) Datu Len Talif Salleh and State Secretary Tan Sri Mohammad Morshidi Abdul Ghani.