Malaysia: Weak global demand affects exports

ITTO's Tropical Timber Market Report
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The most recent export data shows that Malaysian exports totalled RM 390.3 billion for the period January to September 2012; this generated an average monthly positive trade balance of around RM 10 billion.

By comparison, over the same period last year total exports were slightly lower at RM 381.2 billion. The marginal 2.4% increase year on year reflects the weak global economy which is lowering expectations for wood product exports.

Industry raises concerns on new minimum wage
Two major issues are of concern to the timber industry at the moment; the changes in the statutory minimum wage provision in Malaysia which came to force on 1st January 2013 and the EU FLEGT which is due to enter into force in March.

Analysts report that Malaysian furniture manufacturers feel especially hard hit as they struggle to cope with the changes in wage structures while preparing for compliance with the EU FLEGT requirements.

The Malaysian government, trade bodies and associations have been holding consultations for stakeholders and have been disseminating information to exporters. Throughout the industry there is considerable apprehension on how the EUTR will affect the wood product exporters and Malaysia’s exports to the EU.

By law, the Malaysian minimum monthly wage, by law, is now RM 900 (approximately US$ 290) in Peninsular Malaysia while in Sabah and Sarawak, the new rate is RM 800 (approximately US$ 260).

The timber industry in Malaysia is trying to adjust to this new wage structure which something of a problem for those companies which include room and occasionally food in their workers employment contract.

Some companies are saying the new law does not reflect the local living expenses, pointing out that it is more expensive to live in the cities than in the rural areas where logging and some timber companies operate.

This point is particularly pertinent in the eastern Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Sabah timber association calls for government support
Recently, as reported in the Daily Express, 2 Jan 2013, James Hwong, president of the Sabah Timber Industries Association, called on the government to help the downstream timber industries in the state.

Hwong said that stricter regulations on logging natural forests could reduce the supply of raw materials to manufacturers forcing them to import the raw materials needed in their manufacturing processes. The report says a call was made for government to not impose any fees or restrictions on timber raw material imports.

Hwong noted that worldwide, the trend is towards ‘green’ products and said “In order to survive, the only way is plantation timber”.

Sabah export statistics
Data on timber exports from Sabah were released recently. For the period January to October 2012 exports were:

  •  Sawntimber 207, 988 cu.m, FOB value, RM335,065,148
  • Laminated Boards 39,012 cu.m, FOB value RM64,053,276
  • Mouldings 25,162 cu.m. FOB value RM82,079,441
  • Veneer 38,512 cu.m. FOB value RM61,378,542
  • Plywood 539,124 cu.m. FOB value RM852,061,570

New minimum wage levels an issue for industry in Sarawak
Comments on the new minimum wage structure for the state have focussed on the impact the changes will have on overall wage bills as, already, wages are trending up due to the problem of labour supply.

The plantation sector in Sarawak is especially dependent on foreign labour because of its low domestic population.

The domestic labour force is not attracted to working in the forestry and timber sectors, preferring to work in an urban environment instead.

Sarawak log price indications
Sarawak log export prices are provided as a range to take into account shipment size and variations in log quality and diameter.

FOB prices for Meranti SQ quality logs provides a good indicator of overall market price trends for Malaysia natural forest logs as prices for other species usually follow the same general trends as Meranti.

Log Export Prices (Sarawak)

Meranti SQ US$ 240 – 260 FOB
Kapur SQ US$ 320 – 350 FOB
Keruing SQ US$ 260 – 280 FOB
Selangan Batu regular US$ 320 – 360 FOB

Sarawak export data
Sarawak export data for the period January to November 2012 was recently released and is summarised below:

  •  Log exports 3,060,639 cu.m FOB value RM1,667,215,856;
  • Sawntimber 769,088 cu.m FOB value RM730,846,657;
  • Plywood 2,402,120 cu.m FOB value RM3,634,972;
  • Veneer 207,552 cu.m FOB value RM248,088,773;
  • Mouldings 7,742 cu.m FOB value RM18,358,923;
  • Particle Board 110,906 cu.m FOB value RM58,323,120;
  • MDF 172,583 cu.m FOB value RM275,566,889;
  • Laminated board/Flooring 19,102 cu.m FOB value RM45,348,365.

For the period January to November the top buyers of logs from Sarawak were:

  • India (1,942,360 cu.m),
  • Taiwan P.o.C (359,750 cu.m),
  • China (310,029 cu.m),
  • Japan (174,191 cu.m),
  • South Korea (52,996 cu.m)
  • Indonesia (40,818 cu.m).

The top buyers of plywood from the state of Sarawak were Japan (1,297,092 cu.m), South Korea (299,462 cu.m) and Taiwan P.o.C (214,406 cu.m).

Export Sawnwood Prices

Export Plywood Prices

Malaysia ply MR BB/CC, FOB US$ per m³
9mm & up
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