The Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (Pusaka) aims to increase the state’s exports of timber products to between RM8 billion and RM10 billion a year, Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said.
He said long-term strategies would be formulated to explore new value-added products in the timber industry, including wooing foreign investors in the production of wood pellets.
“Our most strategic (initiative) is producing furniture from acacia wood through the acacia forest plantation project which had been taken over fully by Pusaka,” Awang Tengah, who is also Pusaka chairperson, said when addressing the monthly Pusaka assembly in Kuching today.
Awang Tengah, who is also Sarawak Industrial Development Minister, said collaborative efforts with the industry and institutions of higher learning in research and development (R&D) would be intensified in order to diversify into new value added products to optimise sources of raw materials.
He said the R&D carried out with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in the development of furniture products would help increase export earnings.
“This is a strategic vision of Pusaka in transforming the timber industry into a high-income industry and expanding sources of income,” he said, adding that the industry is one of the most important sources of revenue to Sarawak’s economy for the past five decades.
He said through the implementation of effective policies and initiatives by the state government, the timber industry currently accounted for RM7.2 billion in export earnings and created about 50,000 jobs.
Awang Tengah said foreign investments in the timber-based downstream industry is expected to boost export earnings to surpass RM8 billion in the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) with Kuching, Tanjung Manis, Bintulu, Miri and Lawas identified its hubs.
In order to promote and develop the state’s timber industry, issues related to trade barriers should be tackled in the best possible manner, he said, adding that he hoped Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, the US, and Middle Eastern countries would remain Sarawak’s main importers in the 11MP.
“We also hope to retain the six companies, which are the main contributors of timber products exports, accounting for RM5.5 billion worth of exports or 76 percent of Sarawak’s total export earnings,” he said.