Uphill task for timber producers

  • Business
  • Saturday, 31 Mar 2012

KUCHING: Malaysia and other timber producing countries have found it extremely difficult to meet the different measures and requirements imposed by consumer nations to ensure that illegal timber products do not enter their markets.

Sarawak Timber Association chairman Datuk Wong Kie Yik said these measures, which were unique to each country, were often unclear and difficult to implement due to different definitions, interpretations and shifting of goal posts along the way.

“These measures have also increased costs significantly for the producing countries to meet the requirements. But the consumer countries have not reciprocated accordingly in term of pricing (offering higher prices for timber products),” he said at the association's AGM here yesterday.

He named these different measures to include US Lacey Act, EU (European Union) Timber Regulation and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement, Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011, GohoWood of Japan as well as government procurement policies of the various consumer countries.

Wong said some of these measures not only centred on legality of timber and timber products but also on sustainability of forests and land rights.

He said Malaysia and other timber producing countries had been increasingly challenged over the years to meet with these measures and requirements.

He applauded the state government's recent booklet publication on Log Verification System in Sarawak in documenting the state's log legality system.

The booklet seeks to explain the legality verification of logs in terms of tracking and traceability of log movement during the chain of custody from the forest to the processing mills or export points.

The publication, according to Wong, clarifies any misconceptions that Sarawak's trading partners and non-government organisations might have on the state's log legality.

On timber certification, Wong said the development of such schemes and other tools related to forest management was skewed towards strengthening the environment and social components due to the pressure from non-governmental organisations.

Pointing out that the economic component was neglected in these certification schemes, he said this had created more challenges to the producing countries to meet the schemes' requirements.

He said the association's member companies applying for certification of forest management units had found it difficult to meet the social components of the available certification schemes due to a number of disputes in native customary rights land in Sarawak.

“All these stringent and inequitable requirements placed by some consumer countries and certification schemes do not take into account the actual situation on the producer countries which may result in negative effects to the industry,” he said.

“When the industry could not sustain the rising costs of operation, businesses may wind up, causing the industry to retrench its employees.

“This may lead to undesirable social issues, particularly in development countries, or this may encourage illegal activities in the forests, depleting the resources within a short time.”

Meanwhile, based on association figures released yesterday, Sarawak earned RM7.08bil in the exports of logs and timber products last year, down from RM7.21bil in 2010.

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