Sarawak’s timber industry export earnings have plunged to RM5.94 billion last year from RM7.2 billion in the previous year due to the global economic volatility.
State Industrial and Entrepreneurial Development, Trade and Investment Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said nearly 99% of Sarawak timber product exports focused on traditional markets such as China, Japan, South Korea, and India.
He said the impact of slower economic growth on the market was feared to continue to impede the export growth of Sarawak’s timber products industry this year.
“Hence, the state’s timber industry should take into account the current and future development scenario and demand trends of wood-based products in the global market,” he said at the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (Pusaka) assembly today.
Awang Tengah said dependence on traditional and prime product export markets did not benefit Sarawak’s export earnings in the long run, Bernama reported.
“Hence, Pusaka needs to transform the local timber industry from merely exporting premium goods to exporting higher value-added products by creating more high-earning industries,” he said.
Awang Tengah said in line with Pusaka’s mission, namely “To Regulate and Facilitate the Advancement of an Innovative Timber Industry”, an action plan should be designed to create value-added industries targeting high earnings.
He cited them as export-driven furniture, decorative panel product, and pulp and paper industries.
He said with a network of effective policies, incentives and initiatives laid by the state government in the last five years under the 11th Malaysia Plan, this sector could rise to between RM8 billion and RM10 billion a year.
A long-term strategy to boost the timber industry export earnings needed to be harnessed by maximising the use of existing sources of raw materials from the natural forest, he added.