Japan’s imports from Malaysia the highest since last June. (Plywood quality tests before exporting - file pic) KUCHING: Malaysia’s plywood exports to its key market, Japan, surged sharply last October, which is in contrast to the performance of its other competing peers.For the month under review, major plywood exporters posted sharp declines in their shipment volumes to Japan, except for Malaysia, according to Japan Finance Ministry’s data quoted by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) in its latest timber market report.“Japan significantly raised its plywood imports from Malaysia to 62,400 cubic m in October, which is an increase of 20,200 cubic m or 47.5% from 42,200 cubic m in the previous month,” said ITTO.Japan’s plywood imports from Malaysia in October, was also the highest since June 2020, it added.This bring the total imports from Japan to 599,100 cubic m in the first 10 months of last year.According to statistics from Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp (STIDC), about 88% of Malaysian plywood shipped to Japan came from Sarawak-based manufacturers.Collectively, Sarawak exported 528,843 cubic m worth about RM1.1bil (free-on-board) to Japan in the first 10 months of 2020.STIDC said Japan imported 676,038 cubic m for about RM1.37bil from Sarawak in 2020 against 733,051 cubic m valued at RM1.59bil.Meanwhile, ITTO said Japan imported 52,700 cubic m of plywood from Malaysia’s close competitor, Indonesia in October last year,down 27% from 72,000 cubic m a year ago.However, Indonesia has beaten Malaysia as its total exports to Japan in the first 10 months of 2020 stood at 608,800 cubic m, about 9,700 cubic m more than Malaysia.In 2019, Malaysia ranked as the No.1 plywood supplier to Japan with 852,300 cubic m, which was far ahead of Indonesia’s 767,600 cubic m.To put into perspective, Sarawak plywood manufacturers have lost their competitive edge in the Japan export market to their Indonesian peers after the state raised export prices to offset higher production costs as a result of a hefty increase in hill timber premium, rehabilitation and development cess as well as the increase in minimum wage.Other main suppliers from Vietnam and China recorded lower export volume of 10,100 cubic m and 8,300 cubic m respectively to Japan against 12,000 cubic m and 10,600 cubic m respectively in October 2019.During the January-October 2020, Vietnam shipped a total of 112,300 cubic m to Japan against China’s 90,800 cubic m.On tropical logs, the latest figures from the Japan Lumber Reports (JLR) indicated that “there was a rush to import more” due to the soaring container freight rates in view of the acute shortage of containers globally.“Container freight charges are climbing given the supply shortage and nobody knows how high it could climb further.“Therefore, importers are in a hurry to import as soon as possible.”On the other hand, demand from the end-users are “not really active because if arrivals come together,there would be an oversupply situation,” said JLR, a trade journal reproduced by the ITTO TTM Report.As for logs export from Sarawak in 2020, STIDC statistics showed that total volume shrank further to 925,162 cubic m worth RM492.8mil from 1.29 million cubic m valued at RM722mil in 2019.Logs exports from Malaysia to Japan fell drastically to 23,353 cubic m worth RM18.1mil in 2020 from 38,784 cubic m valued at RM33.6mil in 2019.STIDC said: “The yearly export volume has continued to fall due to sharply lower production output from natural forests to about 5.74 million cubic m in 2019 from 14.3 million cubic m in 2010 in line the state’s sustainable forest management.”The production volume in the January-September 2020 period was about 3.13 million cubic m.
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