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Timber sector issues need to be solved [25-01-2011]  
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The Government needs to properly address the issues and challenges faced by local timber and furniture industry players to ensure that the targets set under the national timber industry policy (NATIP) can be achieved by 2020, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

The NATIP has targeted exports of timber and timber products to hit RM53bil, of which 60% represent value-added products while the remaining 40% is commodity-based. In addition, export growth has also been set at 6.4% annually.

“We need feedback from the industry players. Hence, this dialogue will help chart the domestic timber sector towards sustainable growth,” Dompok told reporters after chairing a closed door annual dialogue session with timber and furniture industry players organised by the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) yesterday,

Various important issues were raised during the dialogue session, according to an industry participant.

The Malaysian Furniture Industry Council and Malaysian Furniture Entrepreneur Association had asked the Government to urgently consider abolishing current rubberwood export quotas for local supply.

Both organisations also highlighted other issues concern the insufficient labour work force and increasing runaway foreign labour in the furniture industry.

The furniture industry, which is the star performer of the country's wood-based industry, is also facing challenges like a shrinking market, reduced sales orders and strong competition from neighbouring countries.

The appreciation of the ringgit against the US dollar also affects the competitiveness of furniture manufacturers and exporters.

Better coordination between the Malaysian Wood Industries Association, the MTIB, Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) and Forest Research Institute of Malaysia is necessary to avoid overlapping and maximise the use of resources.

MTIB and MTC were recommended to have support programmes for imports of raw materials, given the declining resources in Peninsular Malaysia.

It was proposed that Dompok's ministry advise state governments to allocate a certain percentage of timber concessions for the timber industry.

Meanwhile, the Sarawak Timber Association has raised issues on incentives for forest plantation development, utilisation of planted species and cabotage involving the transport of goods and passengers.

Given its position in international shipping routes, Sarawak has a severe disadvantage in terms of freight costs. It has also been affected by recent hikes in price of fuel and insurance.

To cushion the effect of high freight costs especially to Western countries, assistance from the Government is required in terms of providing some tax breaks or special subsidy.

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