KUCHING: Sarawak welcomes international collaborations to build up its research capacity in forest plantation, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said.

He said Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, were still lagging behind compared to other Asian countries in terms of forest plantation development which has led the state to embark on research and development (R&D) as one of the key initiatives to address the gaps.

“The unavailability of high-quality planting materials and incidences of pest and disease (in Sarawak) need to be addressed holistically to ensure success in achieving the main objectives of forest plantation development,” he said when officiating the 3rd International Union of Forest Research Organisation (IUFRO) Acacia Webinar 2021, here today.

He said testing alternative species and regimes, resistance to pests and diseases, short and long rotation for different wood quality and timber products, as well as the restoration of the degraded land should be the main agenda for industrial forest plantation development.

“R&D is also required in support of value-adding to plantation timber. The Sarawak government has a strong desire to embark on tertiary downstream timber processing towards export-oriented direction, especially on large scale manufacturing of furniture and other value-added timber products.

“Logs from planted forest will be the ultimate substitute of future raw material in the timber processing industry,” he said.

As such, Abang Johari urged the timber products manufacturing sector to transform themselves and re-invest to adapt their processing equipment and techniques to the changed log quality and species.

He said research must continue to be carried out to seek ways to improve management and for measuring and valuing tradeoffs between different components of sustainability.

In addition, Abang Johari said forest plantation certification was crucial for a sustainable forest plantation industry.

“Certification is a tool to ensure good plantation management practices, leading to efficient harvesting and production and help in increasing the market confidence of timber products from well-managed plantations,” he added. — Bernama