‘Obtain sustainability certification to reach global market’


Abang Johari (on stage sixth left) is seen during a photo call after the plaque presentation. On stage from fourth left are Wong, Uggah, Hamed, and Len. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: Sustainable forest management certification for timber and palm oil products from Sarawak is vital to reach a wider global market, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He urged Sarawakian companies involved in timber and palm oil to invest in sustainability certification due to the sensitivities of the market today, especially when it comes to the environment and carbon emissions.

“It is the intention of the Sarawak government that we must comply with international standards, be it wood-based or other crops like oil palm. We are a trading country and we have to export our products, so we have to comply. In in this case, you have to invest in order to get that certification, so that you can sell in any part of the world,” he said on Friday during Ta Ann Group’s dinner to commemorate the achievement of the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme-Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (MTCS-PEFC) by its Kapit forest management unit (FMU).

Abang Johari said buyers would only accept products that follow the process internationally agreed upon during the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit.

“People will only buy from sources that are certified and acknowledged by the world. If you don’t comply, the market will boycott you. Unless you can show to them this is my certificate and in compliance with international standards.

“Otherwise if you don’t comply, they cannot resell to the market. Who wants to import things that cannot be sold? That fellow will be stupid fool if he were to import but cannot resell,” he said.

Abang Johari also discussed the industrial forest concept, which provides feedstock for companies while at the same time sustaining the forests.

“The perception of planted forest is that it mainly involved replanting of trees. That is why I tend to use the word ‘industrial forest’, meaning you plant and it becomes sustainable feedstock.

“Once it is feedstock then it is sustainable because you keep on replenishing the feedstock, then the whole industrial chain will be sustainable,” he explained.

He pointed out that Sarawak still has 84 per cent of its land mass under forest cover, compared to Africa (80 per cent), North and Central America (33 per cent), and Europe (44 per cent).

Abang Johari said Sarawak can still sustain this level although some land has to be used for agriculture and some for urbanisation purposes.

“To sustain this means there are certain areas as permanent forests, and some are planted forests. This formula has got to continue. We have to establish more national parks, which you cannot touch the permanent forests. (There are other areas) where you can plant trees as feedstock to our timber industry.

“These are policies laid down to me, I just continue and improve from time to time depending on the technology available. With this sort of policy implementation, I am sure the world will respond that we are committed to protect our environment,” he said.

Ta Ann Group executive chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi said the market now demands timber and wood product certification.

As Ta Ann exports almost all its products, he said the company must meet all basic criteria for sustainability and many other criteria to fulfil certification requirements.

“That’s why we are very serious about it and we have to work towards it in order to cater for this ever-changing market condition.

“We have to ensure sustainability of forest goods and services. We have to ensure the forests are well managed and well harvested,” he said.

He said Ta Ann Group hopes to have two more FMUs to attain sustainable forest management certification next year, and other areas to be certified in 2020 and 2022.

“We hope by 2022, Ta Ann will achieve 100 per cent of these areas under forest certification,” he added.

The Kapit FMU, covering an area of 149,756ha, is the first under Ta Ann Group to attain sustainable forest management certification under the MTCS.

The Certificate for Forest Management (Natural Forest), a scheme endorsed by the PEFC, was awarded by Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd to the Kapit FMU on June 11 with a validity of three years, after undergoing two stages of audit, a series of stakeholder consultations, and peer review since April 2017.

During the dinner, Ta Ann Group also presented appreciation plaques to the Forest Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Malaysian Timber Certification Council, and Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd.

Among those present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh; and Ta Ann Group managing director/chief executive officer Datuk Wong Kuo Hea.