Both Sarawak and Sabah timber industry players are demanding that the government simply ban export of timber.
Calling for the ban on the export of timber, which is already in place in Peninsular Malaysia, to include Sarawak, they said the exports have crippled their downstream furniture industry.
Sarawak Furniture Manufacturers’ Association Wong Yiew Chai said shortage of certain timber varieties such as the red meranti wood had acutely affected their production.
He said Sarawak being a timber producing state, should not be experiencing a supply shortage.
“The government must stop timber traders from exporting the commodity. They should just divert the supply to the local furniture industry instead.
“We have the favourable conditions to build the industry. We have everything … raw timber in the interior and the wood-based processing industry downstream.
“But we do not have the wood we need…they are being exported,” he said in his speech at the association’s installation here on Saturday.
Echoing his views was association Sibu branch chief Kelvin Ngu.
“They should just enforce the ban here… the ban is already in force in West Malaysia,” he said.
Ngu also drew attention to the high taxes imposed on the industry.
“The government must consider cutting tax on timber supplied to their industry. Malaysia is among the top nine in furniture export but in Sarawak we are hard hit by the shortage of this raw material.
“The high transport cost and taxes don’t help the industry either. They only serve to make our furniture non-competitive in the global market,” he added.
Same situation in Sabah
Early last month Sabah Timber Industry Associations (STIA) had also called for the ban on exports of logs saying that the shortage had forced downstream activities to close down.
Sabah is reeling under the lack of logs for over eight months. Numerous downstream business including furniture manufacturers have been forced to close down.
Faulting government policies, STIA president James Hwong said the Sabah industry receives no assistance from the government in terms of assisting the industry to develop new products, new markets and promoting, marketing of timber products, provision of training centers for skilled workers and many others.
“The industry was left to fend for its own survival,” he said.
He also denied claims that the downstream industries had refused to grow.
“It is not that the industry refuses to grow up, but policies of the state government in handling the wood-based industry is basically forcing the industry to stay ‘static’, producing primary based products and trying very hard to go further downstream but faced many obstacles.
“Our members who ventured into processing of value added products are crying for help,” lamented Hwong