Myan­mar turns to tim­ber ex­ports to save forests

The Myanmar Times - - Business - CHAN MYA HTWE chan­myahtwe@mm­times.com

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

Photo: Kaung Htet

A log-laden barge sits at a river dock in Myan­mar.

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