Malaysia aims to triple timber trade to US$17bn


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia plans to triple its annual revenue from timber and its products to US$17 billion by 2020 by exporting to new markets including Russia, an official said Tuesday.

Malaysia is a major tropical timber exporter and the trade contributes about five percent to its GDP. The European Union, the United States and Japan are traditional importers of Malaysian timber and its products.

“Timber is not a sunset industry,” Norchahaya Hashim, director of licensing and enforcement at the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry, told AFP during a gathering on illegal logging.

Malaysia’s exports of timber and its products were worth RM19.4 billion (US$6.1 billion) in 2009.

Norchahaya said the government wanted the industry to tap into premium markets in the European Union and the United States with quality furniture products, while penetrating new countries in order to reduce dependence on a single market.

“We have to export to niche markets with quality timber products like furniture and timber mouldings.

“We want to diversify our markets. We are looking at Russia,” she said.

Norchahaya said illegal logging was “not a major issue” in Malaysia, adding: “It consists of only a small percentage.”

“The European Union and the US are imposing stringent regulations to ensure sustainability of the forests. There is also a lot of public pressure on their governments to ensure only legal timber is imported,” she added.

Brian McFeeters, acting deputy chief of the United States’ diplomatic mission here, said illegal logging and trade caused environmental damage, undermined the rule of law and funded armed conflict.

“Malaysia can gain market access by increasing its supply of legal timber products,” he said in a statement.

The World Wildlife Fund earlier estimated that in the 1990s illegally logged trees accounted for about a third of Malaysia’s timber exports, prompting the government in 2008 to launch a satellite programme to fight illegal logging.