SIBU: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem has called upon all holders of Licence for Planted Forests (LPF) to be committed in ensuring quality plantation.
He noted that while there were talks about the need to increase the overall planting rate towards achieving one million hectares of planted forests by 2020, industry players should not neglect the quality of their plantation.
He said based on a report from a 2014 study and the statewide inventory on planting materials, most research and development (R&D) programmes among LPF operations were mere start-ups, or were allocated with very limited resources.
He highlighted that seed testing, which was critical for quality control, was only carried out in a few LPF operations.
“It appears to me that a majority of LPF holders are more concerned with quantity, than with quality. So, we have to ask ourselves — how can we have sustainability and profitability if we do not care about the quality of what we plant, and if we do not invest in R&D to look after our plantations well?” said Adenan, whose text speech was read by Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh prior to the signing of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on R&D collaboration programme for planted forests at RH Hotel here yesterday.
Adenan also spoke about the need to plant the right species and to better look after the trees that were already planted.
“It is undeniable that we have been doing a lot of things wrong — one of which is that we do not incorporate R&D input into our planting plans and as a result, some of them (planting programmes) have gone to waste.”
He hoped that the government could forever put to rest the issue of ‘lack of R&D’ in planted forest development in Sarawak, through the signing of the MOUs.
However, he also acknowledged that R&D in tree breeding and other plantation forestry disciplines were very costly and would require trained scientific personnel, which was very much lacking in the state.
“This is why the effort by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) to pool resources and get the ‘Big 6’ companies as well as other LPF holders to work together in R&D collaboration, is so commendable.”
Adenan assured the stakeholders that the government would always give them the support to ensure that the collaborative project would become a reality and would continue until the desired outcome had been achieved.
He said the state government had provided funding of RM4.5 million under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and would contribute another RM10 million under the 1MP, commencing this year.
The chief minister hoped that the industry would respond positively to the government’s initiative so that everyone could benefit from better yield, better quality of timber and also protection from pests and diseases.
According to him, the timber industry is among the major contributors to the state’s foreign exchange earnings.
Sarawak recorded more than RM7 billion for its timber export earnings last year, and employed some 90,000 men and women directly, and another 200,000 indirectly.
He said although overtaken by oil and gas (O&G) and oil palms in terms of earnings, the forestry sector continued to play hugely important socio-economic roles in Sarawak.
He said in 1996, the then-chief minister Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud made a statement that the state had reached its peak in producing timber from natural forests and needed to find better ways to sustain timber resources.
The timber industry would be better off if it embarked on reforestation, with fast growing species to supplement timber production.
Thus in 1997, the state promulgated a policy on planted forests and thenceforth, saw the establishment of the legal framework for implementation of planted forests by the passing of the amendments to the Forests Ordinance and the Forests (Planted Forests) Rules 1997.
The policy envisaged that one million hectares of planted forests would be established by 2020.
Adenan said with only four years to the deadline, the state was a bit behind the target.
“It may look like the 2020 target is at risk, but I always believe that it is better late than never. Having said this, it should be obvious to all that we need to buck up,” he advised.
Meanwhile, SFC chief executive officer Wong Ting Chung disclosed that there had been at least two earlier government-backed R&D initiatives aimed at facilitating planted forest establishment.
However due to lack of commitment, direction — and perhaps, funding, these initiatives had fizzled out with almost nothing to show for.
He also shared SFC findings from a statewide inventory carried out two years ago on high-quality planting materials and outlined the objectives of carrying out planting trials under the current R&D project.
He said the signing of MOUs between SFC and the ‘Big 6’ in the timber industry as well as four other LPF holders would mark a significant milestone for the planted forests project.
The companies and LPFs involved were Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, RH Forest Corporation Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Samling Timber Sdn Bhd, WTK Reforestation Sdn Bhd, Shin Yang Forestry Sdn Bhd, Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd, Zedtee Sdn Bhd, Polima Forest Bintulu Sdn Bhd, Limba Jaya Timber Sdn Bhd and Tanjung Manis Resources Sdn Bhd.
The ceremony was also attended by Sarawak Timber Association (STA) chairman Datuk Pemanca Wong Kie Yik, Rimbunan Hijau Group executive chairman and STA vice-chairman Tan Sri Datuk Sir Tiong Hiew King, and Ta Ann Holdings executive chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamid Sepawi.