KUCHING: Facing global economic uncertainty and declining log production, Sarawak's timber exports dropped by 12% in the first three quarters of this year.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the state's timber exports from January to September were worth RM3.48bil, down from RM3.96bil in the same period last year.
He said plywood, the state's main timber export product, recorded a 21% decrease in value to RM1.76bil from RM2.25bil in Jan-Sept 2018.
The other main timber products exported by the state are logs (RM547mil), sawn timber (RM451mil), fibreboard (RM264mil) and veneer (RM72mil).
Awang Tengah said Japan remained Sarawak's main export market, with RM1.7bil worth of exports from January to September this year.
"This is a decline of 13% compared to the export value of RM1.9bil in the same period last year," he told reporters after launching the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation's (STIDC) Integrity Day here on Wednesday (Oct 16).
Besides Japan, the state's top timber export markets are India (RM394mil), the Middle East (RM327mil), Taiwan (RM239mil) and Korea (RM193mil).
Awang Tengah said the decline in timber exports was due to uncertain global market conditions as well as declining production.
"Our timber production from natural forests has declined, although production from planted forests has gone up.
"Also, the log size is not as large as in the past, but many sawmills and plants are still using old technology based on larger-sized logs.
"It is high time for them to retool and upgrade their technology so that they can continue to be involved in the industry," he said.
Awang Tengah added that the state was now focusing more on planted timber and high value-added products in view of the declining resources from natural forests.
He said the state was targeting one million hectares of planted forests by 2025, which would become the main source of raw materials for the timber industry.
"Timber players have to be more innovative and creative and go for high value-added products. There is a big market for this, furniture for example. We can assist them in terms of furniture design, for example through the Pool of Young Designers programme," he said.