Myanmar turns to timber exports to save forests
LONG a timber-producing and exporting country, Myanmar will start importing wood to protect its forests while allowing local timber companies to continue operating, the government has decided. U Kyaw Zaw, director of the office of the minister for natural resources and environmental conservation, said, “A plan to permit the importation of raw timber from overseas has been approved.”
He said other countries in the Asia Pacific region were importing raw timber in order to conserve their own forest resources.
Myanmar stopped exporting timber logs in the 2014-15 financial year, and has temporarily banned logging in the current financial year as part of a plan to re-establish its forests. At the same time, sawmills and factories in Myanmar need raw timber. Myanma Timber Enterprise will continue to sell existing stocks of teak and hardwood during 2016-17 to meet the needs of local factories.
But traders in the timber industry want to import raw timber from abroad as well to fulfil their timber needs.
Timber trader U Bar Bar Cho said buying raw timber from abroad could support a plan to stop local logging, as some imported wood was cheaper than timber produced domestically. If raw timber could be bought more cheaply, furniture and other products could be sold inexpensively so as to compete in the international market, he said.
U Kyaw Thu, an executive member of Myanmar Forest Products Merchants Federation, said it needed to review provisions governing specific goods to import raw materials to supply local factories.
The 2016 Union revenue law stipulates that trading teak and hardwood logs and boards 100 square feet or more shall pay 25 percent of commercial tax and 5pc of income tax.
U Kyaw Zaw said the tax rate should be reduced for imported raw materials so as to improve the local industry sector.
Importers facing difficulties in importing raw materials because of the high tax rate have approached the ministry, which is coordinating with the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the customs department, he said.
Logging is expected to resume in the 2017-18 financial year due to local demand for raw timber, but only enough for local consumption, said U Kyaw Zaw.
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun
A log-laden barge sits at a river dock in Myanmar.