Timber council zooms in on China
> Huge market for Malaysian exporters to tap, India also seen as potential target
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) is focusing its efforts on increasing exports of Malaysian timber and timber products to China.
MTC chairman Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng said although China has a huge market, it is difficult to penetrate as it is competitive there.
“China has a big population and many tiered markets. Starting from last year, we’ve been working on having more business-matching sessions and using new approaches through portals to penetrate the market,” he told SunBiz in an interview recently.
Malaysian timber and timber product exports to China are still low currently, said Wee. But China is expected to import more timber and timber products in 2016 to fulfil local demand.
MTC aims to set up a regional office in India by year-end. The council currently has three regional offices – in Guangzhou, Dubai and London.
India is seen as another potential market for the Malaysian timber industry given its expanding middle class, increasing per capita income, rapid urbanisation and growth of the real estate sector. There will be growing demand for value-added downstream products such as furniture, doors and flooring products.
With MTC’s role in the marketing and promotion of the Malaysian timber industry, from upstream to downstream, the regional offices are tasked to look at business opportunities and new markets.
“Regional offices should follow up with business activities, research and development, looking at how to bring sales back to Malaysia, not just working solely on marketing and promotion,” Wee said.
The top ten export markets for Malaysian timber and timber products are Japan, the US, India, Singapore, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, China, the UK and Thailand.
Wee said exporters benefit from the US dollar’s strength against the ringgit, gaining more with foreign exchange translation.
On the Cabinet’s decision to lift the freeze on hiring of foreign workers for four industries that are facing a major labour shortage, including the furnituremaking industry, Wee said MTC will need more time to see whether the situation improves.
“We’re optimistic about exports. We have orders but without the foreign workers, this will impact us. In furniture for example, you cannot rely only on automation. When you want to add value, sometimes the machine cannot do certain things, so we need manpower,” he explained.
Wee with timber products at MTC Gallery.