THE furniture manufacturing industry remains optimistic during the Covid-19 pandemic despite expecting to record losses this year.
Federation of Johor Furniture Manufacturers and Traders Associations president Steve Ong Yeou Huan said that when the first movement control order was enforced in March last year, industries across the board were forced to delay their production.
The initial setback brought on by the pandemic caused many in the furniture industry to face losses in the first quarter of last year, he said.
“Luckily, the furniture industry managed to bounce back and we are optimistic about the continuous international and domestic orders we have received so far.
“Last year, Malaysia’s furniture sector recorded about RM12.86bil in exports, which was an increase compared to the RM11.14bil recorded in 2019,” said Ong, who was recently re-elected as the federation’s 25th president for the 2021-2023 term.
He said the federation projected a 25% drop in furniture exports this year.
Johor, particularly Muar, produced about 70% of Malaysia’s furniture, he added.
“The reality is that many countries are stopping and resuming work at different stages because of the Covid-19 pandemic and this has affected the global supply chain.
“The rise in prices of raw materials and short supply of storage
containers are some of the issues we are currently facing, but we believe these are short-term problems that will improve as time passes,” said Ong.
Aside from suggesting that the government and banks provide financial assistance for small and medium enterprises to tide them through the pandemic, he also hoped the government could have more engagements with industry players to address foreign labour issues.
“Although the number of foreign labourers used in the furniture industry is less than 3% of the overall foreign labour population in the country, they are contributing to bringing in billions of ringgit for the economy.
“While many companies are adopting Industrial Revolution 4.0 in their businesses with sophisticated and high-end machinery, the furniture manufacturing process still requires the human touch.
“This simply cannot be completely replaced by machines.
“I hope the government and its relevant departments can understand our need for a clearer foreign labour policy to help the industry become more competitive in the international market and get Malaysia back on the top 10 list of furniture producers in the world,” he said.