Timber industry players must evolve with the times, says CM

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

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KUCHING, June 27: Timber industry players in Sarawak must change their mindset and use technology to stay relevant in the industry.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the timber industry players cannot rely forever on old-style timber exports like before, which is now declining in demand.

Instead, he urged the timber industry players to produce value added products like furniture to be exported as this type of market demand is now increasing.

“Yes, that’s why we have to shift. Previously we were exporting plywood. Now what you do, you have the raw materials here, you (must) shift to a higher level. You don’t have to export plywood all the time. You export furniture. Because plywood can be raw material laminated to produce high value added products.

“Plywood is just raw material. What you do, you make use of your plywood as raw material for you to design new products out of plywood,” he told reporters, in response to certain industry sources who are lamenting that the state’s plywood industry and exports are dying.

The chief minister said if these players keep insisting in old-style trade, selling raw plywood, then these players would have no choice but to close down, unless they change their mindset and embrace new technology to produce value added timber products.

Abang Johari trying out a bamboo bicycle as Awang Tengah (second right) and other state dignitaries look on.

When asked if it was due to the state’s stringent timber export policy, Abang Johari outright denied it, saying that the timber market is changing and the industry players should keep up with it.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan agreed with Abang Johari, saying that the industry players should change their ways as it would not be sustainable to just export raw timber now.

“That’s why they have to make some adjustments. Like what CM said earlier, they have to retool their machinery and so on, they have to upgrade their technologies. They cannot forever rely on natural forest. No more. They have to make some adjustments,” he said.

Asked what would the state government do to help the dying timber industry, Abang Johari iterated that events such as the Sarawak Timber and SMEs Expo 2019 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) which he launched earlier is among such initiatives being carried out by the government.

The aim is to not only promote value added products from the timber industry but also to encourage timber industry players to change their mindset and old ways of trading in and exporting raw timber material only.

He cited an example of using an old ATUR mobile phone: “If you use this big one, ATUR (phone now), people will laugh at you. This is just an example.”

Abang Johari tasting one of the delicacies offered by a booth at the Sarawak Timber and SMEs Expo 2019 at BCCK this afternoon (June 27, 2019).

Earlier in his opening speech when launching the expo, Abang Johari advised timber industry players to change their ways from exporting raw timber material to producing value added products to be exported.

This, he said, not only will be more sustainable and environmentally friendly but would also encourage the use of technology among players which in turn would help them produce high quality products that would sell even better in the current market.

Abang Johari added that this would also prevent misunderstanding with environmentalists on the state’s timber industry and forest preservation.

“We do not want to make the same mistake with our forest and timber industry just like the oil palm industry,” he said. — DayakDaily