Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - The Malaysia Timber Council (MTC) forecasts a 5 per cent growth for the timber industry based on the strong demand in the furniture sub-sector and signs of improvement in the US economy.
"Hopefully by the year-end, the whole industry can see growth of 5 per cent," MTC chief executive officer Cheah Kam Huan told StarBiz.
The United States, Malaysian timber's second largest market after Japan, was showing signs of economic improvement, he said.
The overall timber exports improved marginally by 0.3 per cent in the first half of the year compared with the corresponding period last year while furniture exports rose 12% in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.
"Our industry is quite resilient because we export to many markets. For furniture alone, we export to 150 countries," he said.
Malaysia's exports of major timber and timber products contracted by 2.4% to RM20.03bil in 2011 from RM20.52bil in 2010 due to the slowdown in the global markets.
"Ultimately, the target is to hit RM53bil worth of timber exports by 2020," he added.
He said industry players had to look to growth markets like the BRIC (Brazil, Russsia, India, China) countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman and also South-East Asia.
MTC also encourages timber players to produce value-added products.
"Instead of exporting sawn timber and plywood in the raw form, they can export flooring products.
"Based on calculations, value improved by seven times when raw timber materials are made into furniture," he said, adding that the industry was competing against other building materials like glass, aluminum, steel and concrete.
MTC will hold a three-day MTC Global Woodmart which will start tomorrow at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
A total of 118 exhibitors from 20 countries are expected at the event.