KUCHING: Sarawak can offer numerous opportunities to potential foreign investors in sectors such as halal products, palm oil-based, food processing, furniture and wood-based, biomass, petrochemical, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, electrical and electronics and energy intensive industry among others, said Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.

The deputy chief minister added that with abundant timber resources, including planted forests, investors interested in investing in high-value-adding downstream activities are most welcomed to Sarawak.

“I believe there are many areas of cooperation in trade and investment that can be explored between SFIA members and their Singapore counterparts.

“I welcome members of Singapore Furniture Industries Council to visit Sarawak to explore opportunities in our timber-based industry,” said the Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development, via a press statement yesterday.

Awang Tengah – also Second Minister of Urban Development and Resources – was in Singapore with members of Sarawak Furniture Industry Association (SFIA) attending the ‘Sarawak Timber and Furniture Seminar – Trade and Investment Opportunities’ at the Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.

More than 100 investors from Singapore attended the event.

The seminar was a special event organised by Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) as a venue for the state to enhance information sharing, strengthen trade relationship and networking.

There was also a display of a wide range of solid wooden furniture produced by Sarawak furniture manufacturers to promote sales of these products in Singapore.

Awang Tengah also informed visitors at the seminar the Sarawak economy is the third largest in Malaysia, with real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at USD32.9 billion and GDP growth of four-to-five per cent annually.

“Sarawak has a land mass of 12.4 million hectares where approximately 63 per cent is under forest cover. We are known for our unique blend of multi-ethnic culture, and flora and fauna.

“Sarawak is also endowed with abundant natural resources such as oil and gas, hydropower potential, timber and other mineral resources such as coal, kaolin clay and silica sand. We want to value add further these resources to accelerate our economic development,” he said.

The deputy chief minister, who is also chairman of STIDC Board of Management, said the Sarawak government is committed towards ensuring that its forest resources are sustainably managed.

“We recognise the value and the significant role of our forest. We practise sustainable forest management to ensure that our timber industry will continue to contribute significantly towards the socio-economic development of Sarawak.”

He said the direction of the state’s timber industry is moving towards the utilisation of alternative raw materials from planted forest, as the production of logs from natural forest will reduce further in future.

The Sarawak government’s policy on forest plantation is to establish one million hectares of planted forests by 2025 to ensure sustainable and renewal supply of raw materials for the timber-based industry, especially downstream activities such as fibreboards, floorings and furniture among others, he added.

To date, he said a total area of more than 400,000 hectares has been planted, while pointing out that the government has also made it mandatory for all long-term forest timber licensees to obtain Forest Management Certification by 2022.

“This certification will provide concrete and verifiable evidence that the forest management unit is being managed on a sustainable basis. This initiative not only widens the market access and acceptance for our timber products but it also enhances state’s image on forest management globally,” he stressed.

Awang Tengah further stated that the state has implemented its timber legality system known as the Sarawak Timber Legality Verification System (STLVS), which covers the processes of timber licensing, harvesting, transporting, manufacturing and trading of logs and timber products in Sarawak.

He said the system has been enhanced with additional element to allow a third party to audit forest and trade activities, adding the system has been recognised and accepted by overseas buyers with special documentation arrangement with Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Singapore, he pointed out, was once an important market for Sarawak timber products, with export of timber products – mainly plywood and sawn timber – to island peaking at RM231 million in 1997.

“However, the export value to Singapore has reduced significantly over the past several years. It is my hope that our mission today (Wednesday) will be able to revive and increase the export of furniture and other timber products to Singapore as we have experienced 20 years ago,” he added.

Awang Tengah also said the opening of the Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office in Singapore (Statos) was an acknowledgement by the state of Singapore’s strength in the business world, adding Statos will leverage on Singapore’s global connections to provide linkages between Sarawak and the world.

“Sarawak is a favourable investment destination to foreign investors and has remained as the top three preferred investment destinations in Malaysia over the past six years. Foreign investors are able to enjoy tax incentives such as Pioneer Status or Investment Tax Allowance and Reinvestment Allowance which are offered by the federal government.

“The Sarawak government also provides incentives such as competitively priced power and water tariffs, affordable industrial land with flexible terms of payments, and investors are able to enjoy 30 per cent rebate on land premium if projects are completed and operational within three years.”