Developing Sarawak’s forest plantation: Global help in R&D welcomed

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KUCHING: Sarawak’s utmost agenda in industrial forest plantation development should be on testing alternative species and regimes, pest and disease resistance, and with short and long rotation for different wood quality and timber products as well as the restoration of degraded land.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg speaks during the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Acacia Conference 2021.

In saying this, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that a higher level of expertise in operations and research was required to support the state’s forest plantation development.

“As such, we welcome international collaborations to build up our research capacity in Sarawak, thus contributing to the growth of the high value profitable plantations based on high productivity and quality,” he said.

The chief minister was officiating at the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Acacia Conference 2021 at the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Building here on Tuesday (Oct 26).

He described the event as a very important platform for networking and information sharing and  hoped it would lead to many collaborations, especially for those involved in forest plantation industries. 

“We in Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, are still a bit behind compared to other Asian countries in forest plantation development.

“Therefore, research and development (R&D) is one of the key initiatives to address the gaps we face, such as unavailability of high-quality planting materials, incidences of pest and disease, the right species to be planted, amongst others,” he said.

Abang Johari said these needed to be addressed holistically to ensure success in achieving the main objectives of forest plantation development.

At the same time, he pointed out that R&D was time-consuming with lots to be done before results could be achieved.

“Based on recorded evidence established by many international communities in R&D works in plantation forestry such as in Brazil, China, Vietnam, and more, Sarawak will need decades to get proven results in tree cultivation since our soil types vary across the regions.

“Furthermore, although indigenous species are available, a greater preference is given for the selection of exotic species as there is lack of adequate knowledge in the propagation and silvicultural management of indigenous species as well as a higher supply of seeds of the exotic species, which are fast growing and high yielding,” he said..

Abang Johari added that R&D was also required in support of value-adding to plantation timber, adding that the state government had a strong desire to embark on tertiary downstream timber processing towards an export-oriented direction, especially on large-scale manufacturing of furniture and other value-added timber products.

“Logs from planted forests will be the ultimate substitute of future raw materials in the timber processing industry. We urge the timber product manufacturing sector to transform itself and re-invest to adapt its processing equipment and techniques to the changed log quality and species,” he said.

He stressed that research must continue to seek ways of improving management and ways for measuring and valuing trade-offs between different components of sustainability.

“Partnerships between researchers and managers need to be revitalised to make the best use of an information-rich environment,” said Abang Johari.

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