Deadline to achieve 1 mln ha industrial forest plantation revised to 2025

Awang Tengah (seated centre) poses for a group photo with other dignitaries and participants of the two-day conference after the closing ceremony.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Jan 23: The state government has set 2025 as its new target to achieve one million hectares (ha) of industrial forest plantation, which is currently at 42 per cent since the programme started 20 years ago.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said a new timeline has to be set considering that progress has not been encouraging.

When the state embarked on the initiative in 1997, it targeted to plant one million ha by 2020. At present, only 420,146 ha of industrial forest has been planted.

“The state government embarked on industrial forest plantation (initiative) to ensure our timber industry will have adequate supply of raw material for years to come.

“For that purpose, the state government issued 43 licences for industrial forest plantation with a total gross area of 2.5 million ha by 2020. However, the progress has not been encouraging with only 420,146 ha been planted to date.

“In view of that, the timeline to achieve the target of one million ha has to be reset to the year 2025, which is six years from now,” he said when closing the Stakeholders Consultation on the Proposed Forestry Policies here today.

Awang Tengah, who is also Second Minister for Urban Development and Natural Resources, expressed hope that all industrial forest plantation players would respond postively to achieve the target within the revised timeframe.

To facilitate the development of industrial forest plantation, he said the state has also stepped up research and development (R&D) programmes to address the shortage of high-quality planting materials, tree-species matching, pest and disease control, silviculture including product development to identify fast-growing species, as well as indigenous species.

The R&D programmes are being carried out by government institutions and LPF (Licence for Planted Forests) holders.

“I would like to call all stakeholders to synergise by collaborating on the R&D programmes and information-sharing to optimise the applications of the research findings,” Awang Tengah said.

Touching on high value added products, the minister said the state, while successful in developing the primary and secondary industry, still lags behind in developing tertiary and value-added industries.

Currently only two per cent of export value comes from tertiary and value-added products. He highlighted the need to increase the percentage.

Awang Tengah also pointed out the need for emphasis on technology and capacity-building.

He said many of the existing mills in the state were installed with machineries to process timber from natural forest of bigger size and texture.

With the expected increase in production of logs from industrial forest plantations in years to come, it is necessary for the industry to realign and retool their manufacturing facilities to process logs from industrial forest plantations.

“Apart from that, the industry can capitalise on digital technology to conduct business transactions, product promotions, networking and data management, which could reduce costs of doing business and enhance competitiveness.

“The industry players must align themselves to the external changes and must be ready to adopt new ways of doing things and the usage of latest technology so that the industry will not be left behind and always be relevant for many years to come,” he continued.

He said the industry also need an innovative and productive workforce to stay competitive. A competent and skillful workforce is required to manage new technology, develop new products and produce attractive designs.

As the state intensifies efforts to combat illegal logging and other illegal activities in the forestry and timber industry, Awang Tengah also urged industry players to exercise discipline and move towards self-regulation in the management of forest activities.

The strengthening of the Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System (STLVS) will further enhance the credibility of the state’s legality system. STLVS has been recognised by importing countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, he said. — DayakDaily