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'Timber plantations the way forward'
Published on: Thursday, November 14, 2019
By: David Thien
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KOTA KINABALU: The way forward for Sabah’s timber industry growth is sustainability from timber plantations which ensures a sunrise, not sunset industry.

General Manager of Sapulut Forest Development Sdn Bhd Bryant Wong said that there’s diminishing supply from natural forests but for plantation forests, there’s potential for higher volume of homogenous supply than ever, and that’s the key to producing other valuable wood products like CLT or Cross Laminated Timber.

“What is CLT? Engineered wood products manufactured by binding or fixing of timber material to form composite material, first developed and used in Germany and Austria in early 1990s.”

He said as a prefabricated and light material, CLT can be used as roofs, ceilings, walls, loadbearing or shear walls as it is lighter than concrete or steel with fast construction possible.

From the high end to the low end of utility, it can be made into furniture, architectural structures, panel/MDF, wood chips, pulp and paper, firewood for energy.

It contributes to carbon sequestering if wood is from a sustainable source.

In US, UK, proven association with higher overall property value as people are keen to feel the wood texture, which they have no such urge for feeling steel and concrete.

Wong was a speaker at the Timber Association of Sabah (TAS) organised ‘Forest Plantation, Processing and Sabah’s Economic Future Forum’ Monday at Palace Hotel.

He delivered a paper on “CLT: Plantation Forestry, Economies of Scale and Value Creation for Sabah.”

“Timber plantations provide econo-mies of scale that ensure sustainable value creation.” He explained that, “High volume of raw material is also key to achieving economies of scale.

“Economies of scale are key to achieving viable industries,” he stressed, adding that a proportionate saving in costs can be gained by an increased level of production.

Thus, timber plantations can achieve economies of scale to realise sustainable value creation from technology, specialisation, purchasing power, logistics and ease of financing prerequisites.

Therefore, he rued certain financiers’ reluctance to provide easier financing facilities for the industry with remarks like, “Timber is a sunset industry…, there are no trees left in the jungle…, it’s no longer like the ‘good’ old days…” which were greatly misleading.

He said it is impossible to guarantee size or species to be supplied from shrinking natural forests, many of which are left to protect flora and fauna biodiversity.

 “Selection and sorting are expensive to point of infeasibility from natural forest supply. 

“What’s to be done with species or sizes that are not utilised?”

“If a log costs RM1,000. Recovery for high end timber is 40 per cent. Some 60 per cent is wasted. Therefore, RM600 is an expense that must be absorbed, or passed on to final customer.

“If 60 per cent can be utilised, expenses will reduce, as will the cost to final customer,” Wong explained as an example.

He said timber plantation supply ensures consistency of homogenous timber supply in size and species with much less sorting, selecting, handling, whereby division of labour is much quicker to achieve on specialisation in different processes of sawing, recovery, treatment and drying besides others.

This is more likely to bring about breakthroughs in innovation for the industry from upstream to downstream processes, as non-utilised material is homogenous, thus more likely to be useful, Wong said.

“Investing in research and development is expensive, Companies cannot afford to invest in innovation and R&D without a guaranteed supply of raw material,” Wong said.

He opined that by comparing this to natural forest supply which requires expert knowledge of many, many different species, whereby certain tasks are impossible to divide as “every log is different, it takes at least 10 years of experience before you are able to maximise its usage.”

Wong recognised the need for the authorities to check the legality of timber logs but any delay in the process poses logistics woes.

“It takes seven days minimum to get the log to mill once it reaches stumping. Some logs sat in stumping for two months without moving.”

He stressed that there is little to no need for checking on the 100 per cent legality on timber plantation supply for Sabah’s downstream industry and other markets.

Meanwhile, referring to an earlier report titled  “Jumbo Deaths Not In TAS Areas” yesterday, he said he did not mention any other form of industry or plantation in conjunction with the matter.

“Tree planting can be a key part of alleviating the myriad issues we are facing and deserves it own conversation in the public forum without being dragged into other issues of debate,” he said.

 



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