KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Furniture Promotion Council (MFPC) expects Malaysia's furniture exports to hit RM10bil in 2010, with the focus on quality furniture and not quantity.
The MFPC is an agency under the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry that aims to promote and organise international furniture fairs to boost exports.
“Last year, the furniture industry recorded RM6.8bil worth of exports and Malaysia is among the top 10 furniture exporters in the world,” chief operating officer Paul Wang said after opening the furniture seminar organised by the MFPC.
Jürgen Oskamp, partner of Achilles Associates bvba, a leading Belgian company that specialises in integral furniture products, delivered a paper entitled “Design & Furniture- The European and Asian Market Perspectives and its Challenges”.
Wang said: “Whether or not our ringgit is strengthening, our furniture manufacturers still have to compete. We just have to be more competitive and innovative.”
He added that Malaysian furniture manufacturers could compete globally and were resilient.
The industry did not really benefit from the strengthening of the ringgit as most of the raw materials for furniture were sourced locally.
He advised manufacturers to be more bold to move their products to the higher-end market where price was not a concern compared with the middle or lower-end markets.
“The only way forward for us is to move away from price competitiveness and tackle the premium prospects of the medium- to high-end markets,” Wang said, adding that competition was growing from countries like China.
However, he said furniture design had yet to play a central role in Malaysia's furniture industry, unlike in some countries where it was a focal point.
Meanwhile, Oskamp said West European and Malaysian furniture industries had a common problem in that both had to compete against cheap labour.
“For Western Europe, this cheap labour comes from Eastern Europe and the Far East while for Malaysia, it comes mainly from China and Indonesia,” he said.
To meet the challenge, Oskamp said local furniture manufacturers must find new opportunities, understand current trends and market demand and explore the possibilities of developing a brand name.