KUCHING: Sarawak’s production and exports of logs from planted forests have surged as the cultivated fast-growing commercial timber trees attain maturity after between 10 and 14 years.
The state’s shipment of plantation logs of acacia mangium, the most common timber species to be cultivated, jumped to about 394,997 cubic metres (cbm) worth nearly RM95mil (free on board value) in the first seven months of 2020, or a monthly average of 56,428cbm. The entire export volume went to Indonesian buyers.
In 2019, the total export volume of acacia mangium was 558,504cbm or a monthly average of 46,542cbm, according to data from Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp (STIDC).
The export volume of plantation logs made up more than 60% of Sarawak’s total log export of 648,773cbm valued at RM289.2mil between January and July this year. Some 253,776cbm came from natural forests.
In 2010, Sarawak harvested about 10.2 million cbm of logs from natural forest and this was reduced to below 60,000cbm in 2019. Sarawak commenced harvesting of plantation logs in 2011 with 44,000cbm. This rose to 1.72 million cbm in 2018.
The export of logs from natural forest has fallen sharply after the Forest Department reduced log harvesting quotas for timber companies in line with the Sarawak government’s sustainable forest management policy.
Sarawak embarked on large-scale reforestation programme when it issued 43 licences for planted forests (LPF) with gross area of 2.3 million hectares in 1998. However, only a little more half of that – or 1.3 million hectares of the land is plantable.
As at December-2019, Forest Department figures showed that 451,362ha have been planted with fast-growing timber species for the first rotation and 87,455ha for the second rotation. Of this, 197,188ha have been planted with oil palm.
The planted forest area, however, falls short of Sarawak government’s target of achieving one million hectares of industrial forest by this year.
This has prompted Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to ask the LPFs to speed up their planting programme to meet the target by a new deadline, set at 2025.
The forest plantation project is mean to provide another source of raw material to support the state’s downstream timber processing industry and to cut timber harvesting activities in natural forest. Planted forest is said to produce about five times more in raw material than natural forests.
Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, a pioneer in forest plantation project, has planted 30,970ha of timber trees as of 2019, more than 95% of them acacia mangium and the remainder being the kelampayan/sawi/benuang/engkabang species.
Of the planted area, 28,160ha are under first rotation and 2,810ha are under second rotation, according to group managing director Datuk Wong Kuo Hea. Some 25,432ha of the planted trees are in mature area (above 10 years old).
Ta Ann is increasingly using plantation logs for the group’s plywood manufacturing activities. The company’s 2020 action plan, outlined by Wong, includes increase harvesting of acacia mangium and second rotation planting.
Jaya Tiasa Holdings Bhd, one of Sarawak’s top five timber groups, has forest plantation covering about 35,600ha.