Sarawak timber firms step up tree planting to ensure constant supply

KUCHING: Timber companies in Sarawak, hit by falling log production, are stepping up tree replanting efforts to ensure future supply.

WTK Holdings Bhd is expanding its forest plantation area by 12% this year, as it targets to replant 1,000ha more with fast-growing commercial timber trees.

“Effort is being made on research and development to increase the seedlings’ yields and reduce planting costs,” chairman Datuk Wong Kie Yik (pic) said.

The group has planted 8,000ha and Wong said it was a long-term goal to replace timber from natural forest concessions with trees from the forest plantations for downstream products in line with the state’s sustainable forest management practice.

Wong, who is also Sarawak Timber Association chairman, said WTK was among the state’s six major timber groups which signed a corporate integrity pledge (CIP) that was initiated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Forest Department last November.

According to recent filings with Bursa Malaysia, WTK harvested 128,727 cu m of logs between January and April this year.

This is 19% lower compared with 159,283 cu m reported in the same four-month period last year. Other big timber companies reported sharper drops in log production.

Jaya Tiasa Holdings Bhd said production volume fell by more than 20% to 245,361 cu m from 307,301 cu m while Ta Ann Holdings Bhd saw a 25% drop to 113,710 cu m from 152,886 cu m.

The slowdown in log production contributed to the companies’ weak financial performance during the first quarter of the year.

“All the group’s timber supply is legally sourced and its operations are conducted in accordance to prescribed activities by the Natural Resources Environmental Ordinance 1993. Field audits are conducted quarterly as part of the group’s environmental monitoring report,” Wong said in a review of WTK’s 2014 operations.

It was reported that Sarawak’s log supply was drastically cut after the state government launched a campaign to curb illegal logging activities and unauthorised logs exports in second half of 2014.

The authorities seized and confiscated large quantity of illegal logs, and the campaign saw the MACC raiding some 50 companies across 49 locations statewide last month.

The MACC also raided dozens of sawmills suspected of sourcing illegal logs and froze some RM600mil in bank accounts which belonged mostly to operators of timber and sawmill companies.

None of the big timber companies were involved in the illegal activity.

Ta Ann, based on its latest annual report, said it had reforested an average of some 1,500ha a year in the past four years.

The group had expanded its forest plantations to 36,044ha last year from about 30,000ha in 2010.

StarBiz had reported that the group had invested some RM100mil to establish the first 32,200ha of planted forests in six areas, and its target is to plant up to 70,000ha to achieve a sustainable cutting cycle of 15 years.

According to its group managing director Datuk Wong Kuo Hea, Ta Ann has sought the Sarawak government’s approval to amalagate its four timber licences and two planted forest licences into a forest management unit with a tenure of 60 years to facilitate forest certification.

Jaya Tiasa, which owns some 713,200ha of forest concession areas, had cultivated 31,058ha of forest plantations as of Sept 30 last year.

The group has an estimated plantable area covering 140,300ha.

“The group forest plantation area has been expanding and will continue to trend up steadily. We are committed to plant forest as an investment for the future viability of the group and in keeping with the world’s move towards conservation of natural forest,” chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid said in the company’s 2014 annual report.

Planted forest has a gestation period of 12 to 15 years before the trees could be ready for commercial harvesting. The replanted areas can produce raw materials up to five times more than the natural forests due to the higher density of planted trees.

Corporate News , Sarawak , timber