"The local industry should be given equal opportunity to purchase all logs extracted before these logs are exported. A fair system should be worked out by the State Government in full consultation with the industry for the log procurement and distribution policy," said its President Datuk James Hwong.
He said this at the STIA Kota Kinabalu Branch Annual General Meeting after he was returned unopposed as the branch's Chairman.
Hwong said since there is insufficient supply of raw materials, it is logical for the State Government to open up the importation of logs.
"No permit or quota and administration fee should be imposed on importation, taking into consideration that export royalty is still payable upon export of the added value products. The industry should have free hand to purchase from any source countries to ease the shortage," he said.
He said the issue on foreign workers has been raised continuously by the Association.
"The State Government should consider and approve the appeal to reduce the levy on foreign workers and allow timber-based downstream players to employ workers from other nationalities and not just Indonesians and Filipinos, as well as to allow extension of work permit beyond five years as allocated to other sectors under the 5 + 5 renewal policy," he said.
Hwong said STIA is requesting for immediate implementation of the proposals to ease the predicaments faced by the industry.
"I am appealing to the State Government to fully support the State's timber industry players for a minimum of 10 years in order for the industry to re-establish and re-organise its continued development process.
"The Association hopes both the State Government and the industry players will play their part in ensuring the continued existence of the timber industry in Sabah," he said.
Hwong said the estimated volume of natural log production for this year is around 1 to 1.5 million cubic metres only, which is far from the estimated installed capacity of seven million cubic metres.
"The alternative raw material supply for the industry, that is planted forest, may take another 10 years or more to come to a sizeable volume to meet the industry's requirement. The Association is again therefore making another plea to the State Government to give the necessary support to the industry during this very difficult time.
"We are pleading to the Government to render the necessary support for the industry to struggle on while waiting for the availability of future raw material supply, pending the positive result of the State Government's effort in re-forestation and sustainable forest management policy," he said.
Hwong said the Association also wants the Government to ensure that there is no introduction of new additional cost to the State's timber industry and effort towards reducing the high cost of doing business in Sabah should be boosted.
"The wood-based industry is still one of the contributors to the State's treasury and sufficient attention should be given to this sector," he said.
Hwong said STIA still has more than 160 members who have invested tens of millions and are surviving on their reserves.
During the STIA Kota Kinabalu Branch AGM, Hwong was re-elected Chairman for the 2012/2014 term, while PJ Tan was elected Vice Chairman and Stephen Chaw, Secretary.
The Assistant Secretary is Ong Huang Peng, while the Treasurer is Richard Yong, with Loy Chun Hong assisting him.
The committee members are Fong Ming San, Ricky Lim, Marcelo Udarbe, Yang Sen, Nancy Chia and David Hutchinson.