KUALA LUMPUR: The government is optimistic that timber exports in 2019 could exceed RM22.3 billion recorded last year due to increasing demand for local timber and timber products.
Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said for the Jan-May period this year, timber product exports showed a positive growth trend, rising by 2.3 per cent to RM9.1 billion as compared with the same period in 2018.
“Last year, the timber industry contributed 1.6 per cent to the national Gross Domestic Product, or 2.2 per cent of the country’s total export.
“In order to remain competitive, I hope Malaysian timber-based product manufacturers will continue to offer product differentiation to meet the new customers’ demand and lifestyle,” she told reporters after officiating the Malaysian Timber Conference 2019 here, today.
She said through innovation and technological advancements, timber-based product manufacturers can offer better products and expand the market.
“As we are now in the digitalised era or Industry 4.0, it is imperative for the industry to recognise the importance of investing in technologies to enhance productivity,” she added.
Currently, Malaysia’s biggest timber export market is Japan, followed by the United States, European countries, India and the Far East countries.
Earlier in her opening speech, Kok said despite being a timber-producing nation, Malaysia has kept its promise at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to maintain more than 50 per cent of the country’s natural forest cover.
“To-date, 55.3 per cent of our 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, we have a total of 4.34 million hectares (ha) of certified forest, endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme, to meet the demand for certified timber products globally,” she said.
Understanding the need to protect its flora and fauna, Malaysia has pledged to plant one million forest trees over a period of 10 years for the rehabilitation of degraded forest, said Kok.
She said about 2,500ha of degraded forest in Lower Kawaq at the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve in Sabah will be planted with indigenous tree species.
“As for wildlife conservation, the Malaysian Timber Council has allocated RM1.5 million for a study on pygmy elephants and orangutan rehabilitation in Sabah to be jointly undertaken by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and the Sabah Wildlife Department.
“These initiatives show our serious commitment and support, not only to ensure the sustainability of our forest but also to protect the wildlife habitat in the forest,” she added. – Bernama