KUCHING: The United States has fast emerged as a new key market for Sarawak plywood as the state’s exports to number one market, Japan, has shrunk due to weak demand in recent years.
US, the world’s largest economy, is now the fourth biggest importer of Sarawak plywood, rising from the 12th spot in 2019. Last year, it moved up two rankings to the sixth place.
In the first six months of 2021, the US paid about RM49.8mil (free on board value) in importing 21,043 cubic meters (cu m) of plywood from Sarawak, out of which nearly half or RM24.8mil (9,238 cu m) was recorded alone in June.
US tracked closely behind third largest importer Taiwan which paid RM50.8mil (32,334 cu m) for the imports of Sarawak plywood in the first six months of 2021,according to Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp (STIDC) export figures.
In whole 2019,US purchased merely RM12.7mil for Sarawak plywood and this was almost doubled to RM24.1mil in 2020.
US has beaten traditional importer Korea to the fifth placing. Sarawak plywood is shipped to 24 countries worldwide.
Japan remains as the largest importer of Sarawak plywood, paying about RM1.35bil (676,038 cu m) in 2020, which fell from RM1.59bil (733,051 cu m) in 2019.
The state’s export volume to Japan has been hit by weak demand and depressed prices due to stiff competition from Indonesian suppliers and Japan-produced softwood plywood.
Sarawak plywood manufacturers have raised the prices of their products to offset the high production costs brought about by the steep hike in timber premium as well as rehabilitation and developments, thereby making their products less competitive in the global market.
The local manufacturers are also hit by the prolonged shortage of logs, having to pay higher prices for the raw material for their production activities.
Yemen and Taiwan are the second and third largest buyers of Sarawak plywood, paying RM170.9mil and RM130.9mil, respectively, in 2020.,
The STIDC figures showed that Sarawak earned about RM1.05bil from the exports of 527,550 cu m of plywood in first half-2021 against RM1.12bil in the same period in 2020.