Raw materials and labour shortages affect Malaysian timber industry

Palm trees

Raw material shortages present a significant obstacle for the country’s timber industry, particularly the downstream sector, according to the chairman of the Malaysian Panel Products Manufacturers’ Association (MPMA), Sheikh Othman Rahman.

He added that Malaysia has the potential to produce high-value wood products but efforts are needed to address raw material supplies.

He said the scarcity of raw materials is hindering production and affecting key products such as plywood, MDF and particleboard. Plywood is ranked as the second largest wood exported, after wooden furniture.

The plywood industry has been looking into alternative raw materials such as oil palm trunks, coconut trunks and rubberwood, among others, to ensure sufficient supply.

In 2019, the MPMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and Plus Intervest for collaboration on producing tissue culture eucalyptus seedlings. Eucalyptus is known for having good potential for plywood production and presents a promising solution to the industry’s raw material scarcity issues.

Meanwhile, in Sarawak, the Sarawak Timber Association (STA) has called on the government to establish more consistent policies and streamlined processes for the recruitment of foreign workers.

Chairman Henry Lau said this was in light of the challenges faced by the timber industry which continues to grapple with persistent labour shortages, particularly in the forest plantation and oil palm sectors.

“A more predictable and efficient framework will not only help mitigate the current labour shortage but also contribute to the long-term stability of the timber industry,” Lau was quoted as saying.

He commended the Sarawak government’s recent initiative on exploring the establishment of processing mills within the industrial forests. STA firmly believes that this initiative holds great promise for reducing log costs which are currently high due to long distance transportation.

Source: ITTO