MTC conducted its annual dialogue with the timber industry in five different venues on 17-25 July 2009. Led by MTC CEO, Mr. Cheah Kam Huan, the dialogue kicked off at MTC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, before proceeding to Kota Bahru in Kelantan, Sungai Petani in Kedah, Ipoh in Perak and Batu Pahat in Johor. This year’s dialogue was participated by 128 industry members from 60 companies representing all sub-sectors of the industry in Peninsular Malaysia.
Among major issues discussed were ways to further strengthen the position of Malaysia’s timber product exports in various international markets. Besides promotion and surveys in markets covered by the respective MTC regional offices in London, Shanghai and Dubai, the importance for MTC to conduct similar activities in other markets such as the USA, Canada, Africa and Australia, which are deemed important to the timber trade, was emphasised.
In this regard, MTC stressed on the roles of market correspondents or consultants currently engaged by MTC in Russia, Australia and Poland as well as detailed the scope and frequency of market surveys conducted by MTC officers in various markets. These include the USA, Canada, Africa and new emerging markets like India, Sri Lanka and countries in central Asia such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Given the highly competitive business environment during the current global economic meltdown, several manufacturers expressed their interest to establish more direct trade with end-users or buyers instead of conducting trade through importing agents. The industry members, while agreeing that this would assist in increasing profit margins, were, however, mindful of the fact that the role of the importers should not be undermined as the importers have a wider distribution network and could generate bigger sales volumes.
In the area of processing technology, the dialogue agreed that the world economic downturn does not make it economically feasible currently for manufacturers to invest in new and costly wood working machinery. Nonetheless, although MTC has decided to drop one of two technology study missions planned for 2010, MTC will continue to gather technical intelligence to ensure that whatever the situation may be, the industry will not have a knowledge gap.
Several questions on timber product certification were also raised. One question relates to the possibility of obtaining group Chain-of-Custody certification under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) given the fact that all state Forest Management Units in Peninsular Malaysia have been awarded with forest management certification under the MTCS.
Other ideas and issues discussed include MTC’s initiative in establishing a glu-laminated timber manufacturing industry, the MTC-Academia Timber Industry Forum’s programme to address the mismatching of skills, promotional activities of high quality and branded “Lamtec Malaysia” laminated scantlings as well as requirements under the Green Building Index in certain countries like Singapore.
MTC also provided updates on market trends and developments in the respective regions of operations as well as apprised the industry members on MTC’s timber industry development and raw material procurement programmes. The dialogue also enabled MTC to gather the industry’s feedback on MTC’s proposed activities
for 2010 and to explore new ways in which MTC could assist the industry. It provided, yet again, another good round of interaction between MTC and industry members.