Interview: Sarudu Hoklai

How do you assess the current global demand for timber? Has the market recovered from the downturn caused by China’s reduced imports?

SARUDU HOKLAI: The timber industry has diversified its markets to countries and regions including Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan, South-east Asia and the Middle East. As a result, the weak demand in China has not necessarily adversely affected the demand for Sarawak’s timber product. In addition, promotional activity is continuously being conducted to enhance existing markets and penetrate new ones.

How has the development of Tanjung Manis progressed over the past year? What competitive advantages does its location offer investors?

HOKLAI: The development of Tanjung Manis started in 1990 as a timber processing zone. As other supporting infrastructure came in, a fisheries industry was mooted, which resulted in the building of the Deep Sea Fishing Industry in 2004 and thereafter the Shipbuilding Industrial Area in 2007. With Tanjung Manis identified as one of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) growth nodes, the infrastructure development for the Palm Oil Industry Cluster and Tanjung Manis Halal Hub projects commenced in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and foreign investors can continue to expect long-term concentrated efforts by both federal and state governments to materialise the Tanjung Manis Economic Growth Area as one of the SCORE growth nodes.

Secondly, ready infrastructure such as access roads, telecommunications, electricity supply and water supply – as well as the development of Tanjung Manis as a whole district – will help to lower the initial capital and set-up costs for prospective investors.

On top of that, Tanjung Manis offers a strategic location which is connected to major towns by roads and has good accessibility to the world market through its seaport and airport, both of which can be upgraded to handle higher volumes of exports. Next, the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub is poised to be the largest halal hub in the world and to offer relatively cheap land with good connectivity to its surrounding hinterland for those interested in large-scale agriculture and aquaculture. Finally, the controlled environment concept, sustainable supply of energy, adequate manpower supply and stable political condition of the state should bring comfort to investors interested in long-term business sustainability.

What role will SCORE play in the development of the timber industry, and what opportunities exist within SCORE for industry players?

HOKLAI: The timber industry is one of the major industries contributing to the development of SCORE’s hinterland. The development of planted forest will benefit the area in providing raw material for the development of energy-intensive industries including pulp and paper. Such industry will use state-of-theart technology, providing ample employment opportunities for skilled and professional workers, and will contribute to SCORE’s goal of developing Sarawak into a high-income economy.

To what extent has Sarawak’s timber industry diversified into the development of downstream and value-added timber products?

HOKLAI: The development of planted forest aims not only to ensure the sustainable supply of raw material but also aims to be a source of new growth. Apart from enhancing the capacity of the existing industry, timber harvested from planted forest will further promote the development of new industries including pulp, paper and engineered wood.

In terms of wood utilisation, the timber industry in Sarawak has diversified to its optimal potential level. The industry is able to utilise mill residues such as offcuts, peeler cores and sawdust to manufacture a wide variety of products including woodchips, fibreboard, particle board, compressed wood and biomass fuel.