In a statement to the press, Chua Chun Chai, Malaysian Furniture Council (MFC) president said furniture exports will expand faster this year and much of the expansion will be due to the ban on sawn rubberwood export. Chua expects furniture exports to top RM10 billion this year, up about 4% from 2016.
If this can be achieved then the sector is well advanced towards the RM 16 billion target in the Malaysian Timber Industry Board’s (MTIB) National Timber Industry Policy projections for the period 2009-2020.
Between January and April this year exports grew 6% largely on the back of firm demand in the US market.
While the US market is number one for Malaysia’s furniture, Chua pointed out demand in Australia, Japan, Singapore, the UK and Middle East is firm. In addition there has been success in the Indian market, a focus of attention for the MTIB in recent months.
Despite the good prospects there are challenges, said Chua, one of which is the shortage of labour which is holding back growth in the furniture sector.
At issue is the ratio of foreign workers to local workers set by the government. At present the highest ratio permiited by government is 3:1 but if this can be lifted to 5:1 then faster growth can be achieved said Chua.
The other challenge is to encourage companies to move to greater levels of automation said the MFC president.
Despite the rising costs of doing business in Malaysia Chua said the furniture sector has a bright future if the challenges can be addressed with manufacturer friendly policies.