KOTA KINABALU: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Borneo Forestry Cooperatives and Sabah Forestry Department to conduct research into forest plantations.
The state's Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Frederick Kugan said this MoU would also cover research on pest diseases, species trials and operational management of forest plantation developments.
"This is crucial because the state Forestry Department is undergoing a transformation in the forestry sector, especially the timber sector," he said on Thursday (July 7).
He said adaptations must be made, and sustainability has to be the main priority seeing that Sabah aims to achieve 400,000 trees in industrial plantations by 2036 amidst the depletion of resources.
"That is why we want to promote industrial tree plantations to meet the demands of the timber industry and to create the volume needed," Frederick told reporters after opening a Symposium on Developing Resilient Industrial Tree Plantations in Sabah – Forestry Pests and Diseases.
As mentioned in his opening speech, this was in line with the Sabah Maju Jaya Development Plan and the Sabah Forest Policy 2018.
Here, the main focus was on rebuilding the productive capacity of forest reserves through scaling up 400,000 ha of Industrial Tree Plantation (ITP) development in the State by 2036, as stipulated in the Forest Plantation Action Plan for Sabah (2022-2036), he said.
Frederick added that this is part of the 1.65mil ha of forests licensed under the long term Sustainable Forest Management License Agreements (SFMLA), which will be the main source of future timber supply to sustain the forest industries.
He said this will in turn reduce the pressure on the natural forests and contribute towards forest conservation.
"It is projected that about 6 to 8mil metric cube (m3) worth of plantation logs can be produced annually once the annual allowable cut of 40,000 ha is achieved by 2036," said Frederick.
"This could potentially provide a continuous supply of planted timber for the viability and sustainability of the wood-based industry in Sabah," he added, saying that a sustainable supply of timber will encourage more downstream and high value-added investment for the state.
He said the state's gross domestic product could reach RM11.5bil while over 40,000 skilled and semi-skilled jobs in upstream and downstream forest industries could be created for the people of Sabah by 2036.
Frederick added that forest rehabilitation and forest plantation development are regarded as vital components of the sustainability of timber supply due to the degraded nature of most of Sabah’s commercial forest reserves.
He said that reforestation through natural regeneration, forest rehabilitation, enrichment planting in logged over areas, planting in clear-felled areas and planting forest trees are an important and integral aspect of sustainable forest management.
Frederick added that the likelihood of occurrence of pest and disease problems is higher in monoculture forest plantations
“Hence, for forest protection, integrated pest and disease management rather than control is advocated,” he said.