Sarawak Timber Scandal Hits UK

Sold as cheap plywood – this is how Sarawak’s precious remaining hardwood is ending up in UK stores

This fast disappearing Sarawak hardwood, which should be worth much more than pine, is being sold off cheap because of Taib’s policies.

By Sarawak Report

Two of Britain’s top chain stores have been caught out deceiving their customers over ‘eco-friendly’ wood by our latest Sarawak expose, which has also been taken up by the leading UK paper, the Daily Mail.

We can demonstrate that B & Q and Wickes, which both specialise in selling building and decorating materials, have been knowingly selling wood from Sarawak, falsely labelled as responsibly sourced.

In fact, the accreditation agency, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), has not certified any Sarawak timber, because of the greedy and unsustainable nature of the logging promoted by Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his business cronies.

The chain stores, which have hundreds of UK outlets between them and are leading brand names, now face potential prosecution under Britiain’s consumer laws for misleading their customers.

How the story was told in the UK

The Daily Mail explains to its readers:

“Environmentalists are particularly worried about the accelerating destruction of the Borneo rainforest, which threatens the orang-utan with extinction, along with an irreplaceable eco-system of rare creatures and plants.

At particular risk is the rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where corruption has in recent decades led to deforestation”.

Asia Plywood Company Sdn Bhd

Asia plywood proudly announces on its website that it is the largest exporter of Meranti wood from Sarawak and specialises in top quality tropical plywood! This is its photograph of logs being loaded on the Rajang River

The cheats behind the scandal is a Malaysian company called Asia Plywood Company, which openly advertises as the largest exporter of Meranti wood and tropical plywood in Malaysia.

The company boasts a large sawmill in Tanjung Manis, which it rents from the company Tegas Kesuma, from where it is believed to be exporting 10,000 cubic metres of timber each month to its headquarters in Kedah.

Despite this, the company managed to get FSC accreditation last year by pledging that at least 70% of the content of its finished plywood was now being sourced from New Zealand plantation pine.

Stamps and labels on the sheets of plywood displayed in the stores

The UK supplier Finnforest has imported tons of this material into Britain (around a quarter of the output), offering it at well below the normal market price for genuine sustainable plywood.

The boards are all stamped with the Asia Plywood Company brand name, alongside the FSC logo and certification. They also all bear stickers claiming it is “wood from responsible sources”.

Consumers in the UK and elsewhere rely on certification by the FSC (the most respected authority) to reassure them that they are not doing damage to the environment, which is why the stores are so keen to be able to display that their wood is eco-friendly.

This is the stamp of approval from the FSC, bearing the logo of Asia Plywood and the company’s HQ address in Kedah

B&Q and Wickes snapped it up, leaving genuine FSC products struggling to find an outlet. However, the low prices of this supposedly sustainable plywood caused suspicion amongst timber experts, who knew that genuine plantation pine costs far more to produce.

Keeping consumers happy – these labels were still stuck on the plywood in both Wickes and B&Q long after the stores knew they were actually misleading.

Their inspections immediately revealed that the plywood was in fact almost completely made up of tropical hardwood, such as meranti wood – exactly the material which is being exported in such large quantities by Asia Plywood Company from Tanjung Manis.

Sadly, this fast disappearing Sarawak hardwood, which should be worth much more than pine, is being sold off cheap because of Taib’s policies.

His licences permitting rampant logging mean that Europe and America no longer want to buy Sarawak wood, because of the rainforest destruction.  Yet, his crony timber barons are cutting them anyway and selling them off cheap to cheats like Asia Plywood.

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