KUCHING: Malaysia retains its dominance as the top supplier of tropical plywood to Japan, which has seen intense activities in the construction sector as the latter gets ready its sports infrastructure, facilities and related amenities to host the 2020 Olympics.

Japan’s plywood imports in February 2019 rose by 3% year-on-year, a ccording to the country’s Finance Ministry figures.
Malaysia accounted for 46% of Japan’s all import of plywood products in the categories of HS441810-39 by shipping 85,300 cu m to that country in February. The figure was, however, lower as compared to 91,200 cu m in January.

In 2018,Malaysia exported more than 1.03 million cu m of plywood to Japan or a monthly average of 86,150 cu m.
Indonesia is the second key supplier of plywood to Japan, exporting 66,400 cu m and 75,000 cu m in January and February 2019 respectively. Other plywood suppliers are China and Vietnam, according to International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) Tropical Timber Market Report (April 1-15 2019).

Based on figures from Japan Lumber Reports (JLR),Japan’s total plywood supply in January 2019 was 515,500 cu m,which was a 2.8% decline from January but 4.6% more that December 2018.

“Domestic production continued steady from beginning of the year with 258,400 cu m.Import plywood supply in January was 257,000 cum.”

The ITTO report said the Indonesian Wood Panel Association (Apkindo) has complained about the differences in the European Union’s (EU) import duties on wood products from Malaysia and Indonesia,and wanted the rates to be unified.

Apkindo marketing and international relations executive Gunawan Salim was quoted as saying that the current EU import duties had put Indonesian exporters at a disadvantage and Apkindo wants the import duty’s differences between meranti plywood from Indonesia and seraya plywood from Malaysia to be addressed.

He claimed that although meranti and seraya are the commercial names for the same timber,the import duty on Indonesia’s meranti plywood is 7% but that on Malaysia’s seraya duty is 3.5%.

On south sea (tropical) logs, JLR said sizable volume of logs from both Sarawak and Papua New Guinea (PNG) arrived in Japan in late 2018,thereby enabling local plywood mills and sawmills to now carry reasonable amount of inventories.

“Malaysian log prices go up after 2019 with increase of minimum wage and harvest tax,so it was last minute’s rush-in import for December arrivals and 2019 will be different with high prices,” added JLR, a trade journal on the Japanese market published every two weeks.JLR editions are reproduced in the ITTO report.

Sarawak Forest Department raised the rehabilitation and development cess to RM5 from 60sen per cu m in January this year while the minimium wage in Sarawak is increased to RM1,100 from RM920 per month.
According to JLR,PNG’s log export prices are weak in general as the country’s main buyer China is curtailing the log purchase.

“China buys all the harvested logs from forest while Japan buys selected logs,so prices of mersawa logs selected for plywood remain high.

“Some sawmills started using low priced dillenia (species) from PNG for lumber. Japan log importers shifted to PNG for supply after Sabah banned logs exports in May last year while Sarawak reduced its log exports from falling logs production in recent years.

“Inventory of laminated free board finally drop,so new orders are placed,” said JLR On the North America market, the ITTO report said US’s imports of sawn tropical hardwood from Malaysia, Ecuador, Brazil and Cameroon had risen sharply in January this year.

“After showing no growth in 2018,US’s imports of sawn tropical hardwood had a promising start for 2019.January imports rose by 32% over December (2018) and were 40% higher than January 2018.” However, US’s imports of tropical hardwood veneer fell by 10% in January after a strong  show in 2018.