Only 35.2% of Malaysia’s natural forests certified, says timber council chief

Malaysia has certified 4.38 million hectares of tropical forests which amounts to 13.1% of total tropical forests in the world. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Only 35.2% of Malaysia’s natural forests, about 120,971 hectares of land, are certified, but more and more timber companies are now opting for certification, said Yong Teng Koon, the chief executive of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC).

Speaking at a seminar jointly organised by Maybank Investment Bank and Bursa Malaysia, Yong said awareness about sustainable forest management (SFM) is growing and many developed countries had made it mandatory to import certified timber only.

“There have been grave concerns about deforestation and the loss of habitat to aborigines and wildlife in the western countries, too,” he said.

Malaysia has certified 4.38 million hectares of tropical forests which amounts to 13.1% of total tropical forests in the world.

The SFM and its benefits gained traction after the 1992 Rio Summit, where Malaysia was a signatory to the United Nations Climate Change Principle and the Forest Principles, which are non-binding.

The forest certification is an audit process in which a written statement attests to the origin of wood raw material and its status following validation by an independent third party.

The two components of the forest certification are the issuance of the Forest Management Certification (FMC) and Chain of Custody Certification (CoC). The FMC vouches for the authenticity of upstream products while the CoC certifies that logs have been derived from a forest that has been certified.

Malaysia has been earmarked by the United Nations as one of the 17 nations with the most mega biodiversity in the world.

“We have a rich heritage and we have to protect it. Timber certification is the way forward to protect our rich biodiversity,” added Yong.

Sawn timber made up 49.6% of certified timber exports in 2017 while moulding and plywood formed 28.2% and 17.5% respectively. The total volume of certified timber exported in 2017 was 237,981 cubic metres.

The Netherlands was the main importer of Malaysia’s certified timber at 36.4% in 2017, followed by UK at 15.9%, and Germany at 7.74%.

Due to the scarcity of logs, Peninsular Malaysia and the new state government in Sabah have imposed a ban on the export of logs. There have been reports that the Sarawak state government is also mulling such a move.

The government is encouraging players to venture into the downstream aspect of the business by adding value to their products.