KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Malaysia is prepared to work closely with the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) to address the shortage of timber and timber products faced by the two countries.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said this can be done by sourcing and value-adding from other countries, especially for PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) – certified timber products.
In a statement today, she said the sanctions on Russian timber products imports to the US have undoubtedly led to American importers looking for alternative sources of material, especially for plywood.
“The current market sentiments on Malaysian timber in the US is positive, especially for Meranti and Keruing, with year-on-year demand for Meranti and Keruing sawn timber increasing by nine per cent and 467 per cent, respectively,” she said.
Zuraida noted that the Malaysian timber industry has continued to perform well despite the COVID-19 pandemic and economic aftermath, with exports up by 3.1 per cent to RM22.7 billion in 2021 from RM22.02 billion in 2020.
“However, shipments from Malaysia are slow as the shortage of logs from natural forest have left Malaysian sawmills struggling to fulfil the increasing demands and orders.
“Exporters also have to cope with logistical constraints such as heavy port congestion, lack of containers, insufficient vessel space and others — nevertheless, transshipment of timber products has been identified as a potential medium-term solution,” she said.
She said in this regard, the US-based International Wood Products Association (IWPA) is eager to speak to Malaysian timber industry leaders on the ways and means to address the issue.
“As this will entail measures to protect Malaysia from being targeted by the US domestic timber product association and the US authority on the suspicion of trade circumvention, collaboration is being drawn up between the US compliance officer and Malaysian authorities such as the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) and Customs,” she added.
Meanwhile, Zuraida said Malaysia is keen to know the UK’s position on the ENVI (European Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) Deforestation proposal, as well as in working out a consensus on the definitions of deforestation and forest degradation.
She noted that despite significant market disruptions, the UK’s import volume of timber products in 2021 rose by 15 per cent — the largest volume of imports seen since 2008.
“As of Jan 1, changes in the UK Customs regulations came into effect as the country is on the verge of leaving the European Union’s (EU) Customs Union and Single Market framework.
“While Malaysia benefits from the UK customs regulation update, it also hopes that the UK government will further streamline the procedures and document handling to ease the current logistical nightmare,” she said.