Supply woes for plywood players

KUCHING: Tightness in supply has driven the export prices of hardwood plywood manufactured in Sarawak to surge between 24% and 65% over the past 12 months.

Many plywood mills in the state had to scale down their production volumes in recent years due to prolonged log shortage, increase in production costs as well as weak prices for plywood products in the export market.

Back In 2020, one of the major plywood producers, Jaya Tiasa Holdings Bhd, halted its loss-making plywood operation. The group has an annual production capacity of 420,000 cubic metre (cu m).

According to International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) in its latest report, the export price of concrete forming panel (CP) (three times six’) quoted by Sarawak traders has risen to US$795 (RM3,650) C&F (cost & freight) per cu m in July this year.

This is in comparison to US$600 (RM2,686) C&F per cu m recorded in July 2021 or up by US$195 (RM873) C&F per cu m or 32.5% from a year ago.

Similarly, the export price of coated concrete forming panel (UCP) (three times six) has climbed to US$855 (RM3,828) C&F per cu m from US$690 (RM3,089) C&F per cu m or an increase US$165 (RM739) per cu m or by 24%.

The biggest price surge was floor base plywood (11.55mm) to US$1,200 (RM5,373) C&F per cu m from US$730 (RM3,269) C&F per cu m or a jump of US$470 (RM2,105) C&F per cu m or about 65%, added ITTO.

It said; “This saw importers from Japan, the key market for Sarawak plywood, forking out more money to import this timber product due to the sharp price hike,” explained ITTO.

In January to July 2022, the Japanese importers paid about RM1.16bil (free on board value) on the imports of 398,724 cu m, up from RM872.5mil for 416,207 cu m in the same period in 2021.

In value terms, this was an increase of RM285.5mil despite a decline in imported volume of 17,484 cu m, said Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp (STIDC) in its recent timber statistics report.

In the first seven months of 2022, Sarawak’s plywood export volume shrank to 478.380 cu m worth RM1.36bil from 598,832 cu m valued at about RM1.2bil in the same corresponding period in 2021.

However, Sarawak’s plywood export volume to Japan jumped significantly by 83% of its total shipments from 69.5% in the first seven months on 2021.

This is followed by the United States and Yemen, which are the second and third biggest importers of Sarawak plywood, whereby each paid about RM44mil for shipments in the first seven months this year.

Japan Finance Ministry’s latest data also showed Malaysia remained the top supplier of tropical hardwood plywood to Japan with exports of 357,100 cu m in the first five months of this year compared with Indonesia at 347,800 cu m exported to Japan during the same period.

According to Japan Lumber Report, a bi-monthly trade journal reproduced by ITTO, Japan’s imported tropical hardwood plywood and domestic softwood plywood were in very tight supply situation.

Furthermore, the demand for structural hardwood plywood is getting stronger, thus pushing up its prices.

The imported structural hardwood plywood has been used as substitute for structural domestic softwood plywood in the country.

To put into perspective, the imported hardwood plywood prices have remained in the doldrums in Japan in recent years due to the sharp increase in demand in the domestic softwood plywood production.


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