Sarawak considers stopping log exports

Work in progress: Awang Tengah says the government has not set a timeframe to ban log exports.

KUCHING: Sarawak, which has significantly cut log exports in recent years, is mulling to stop exporting altogether as timber resources become scarce.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said Sarawak would gradually reduce logs export from the current 20% of total production.

Sarawak’s log export quota was cut to 20% from 30% more than a year ago due to a reduced log production from natural forest. The export quota had remained at 40% for many years.

“There will be a time when we will totally ban the export of our logs. We want to do it because we want all those involved in forest plantation (projects) to expedite the development of forest plantations because in the near future most of our timber resources will come from forest plantations,” said Awang Tengah, who is also Second Minister for Urban Development and Natural Resources, at the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) monthly staff gathering..

However, he said the government had not set a timeframe to ban log exports in order to give time to local timber players to make the necessary adjustments.

The government has made it mandatory for all long-term timber licence holders to obtain forest certification so that their products could penetrate the international market.

Awang Tengah said the government wanted industry players to venture into the production of high-value added timber products to sustain the industry.

He said the state was presently exporting 20% of some 5.1 million cu m of logs harvested a year. In 2018, Sarawak exported RM773mil worth of logs, mainly to India and Japan.

Sarawak’s log production from natural forest, according to STIDC general manager Hashim Bojet, is on a downward trend, with 5.7 million cu m recorded in 2017 against 10 million cu m in 2010.

At the peak in the early 1990’s Sarawak produced as high as 19 million cu m of logs a year.

The state authorities launched a major crackdown on illegal logging activities under then Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem several years ago. The campaign is still on-going with seizures of unauthorised logs.

The yearly reduction in timber harvesting from natural forests is in line with the government’s sustainable forest management policy.

Awang Tengah said as the development of forest plantation had fallen short of target – one million hectares by 2020 – the government had decided to extend the deadline by five years to 2025.

Up to now, only 421,000 ha of forest plantation has been established statewide. Forest plantations are said to yield raw materials several time more than timber from natural forests.

The state has granted some 40 licences for planted forest projects,mainly to timber companies.

If one million ha of tree plantations could be established, Sarawak expects to produce four million cu m of raw materials yearly for downstream processing industry when the trees are matured.

Several major timber companies,like Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, has increased the harvesting of plantation logs for downstream processing,like the making of plywood.

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