Malaysia’s furniture exports will expand faster this year, driven by the sawn rubberwood export ban, said Chua Chun Chai, Malaysian Furniture Council (MFC) president.
Chua expects furniture exports to top RM10 Bn this year, up about four per cent from 2016. If this can be achieved then the sector is well on its way towards the RM 16 Bn target set by the Malaysian Timber Industry Board’s (MTIB) National Timber Industry Policy projections for the period 2009-2020.
Between January and April this year furniture exports jumped six per cent largely on the back of firm demand in the US market, the number one market for Malaysian furniture. Demand from Australia, Japan, Singapore, the UK and Middle East is also robust. India in particular has been a market of interest in recent months.
However Chua also highlight challenges in the industry, notably, a shortage of labour. For every one local worker, companies are allowed to hire three foreigners. If this ratio can be raised to 1: 5, faster growth can be achieved.
Other issues are low levels of automation and the rising cost of doing business in the country, though, if these can be solved, the furniture sector should have a brighter prospects.