Timber imports fall

May 27, 1992

MELBOURNE — Malaysian sawn timber imports fell last year to their second lowest level since 1954, according to figures compiled by the Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG). This fall was partly due a shift in consumer preference towards alternatives to rainforest timbers.

Rainforest action groups have campaigned against sawn timber imports, and for the rights of the peoples of the Malaysian Sarawak and Sabah rainforests, for a number of years.

Three other factors contributing to the fall are:

  • recession in the Australian economy, with a severe slump in new dwelling construction. New dwelling construction accounts for approximately 60% of sawn timber applications.

  • lack of quality sawlogs available in peninsular Malaysia due to overcutting and poor forest management. Export emphasis in peninsular Malaysia is now being placed on value-added products such as mouldings.

  • cheap imports of radiata pine from New Zealand, which have flooded the Australian market in the past few years and will continue to do so, competing directly against rainforest timber in applications such as mouldings.

MRAG studied figures published by the Australian Bureau of Resource Management since 1983 and yearly figures published in the now discontinued Forest Timber Bureau Annual Report since 1946. The group predicts the lowest level of Malaysian sawn timber imports this year since 1954-55.

So far this year imports are 27% down on the same period last year. This compares to a 4% fall in total imports from all countries. The market share for Malaysian rainforest sawn timber fell from 16.6% of total sawn timber imports in 1986-87 to 10.6% in 1991-92.

"It is becoming clear that Malaysia is becoming less significant as a source of imported timber into Australia", said MRAG spokesperson Anthony Amis on May 18. "Overcutting in the past 40 years and poor forestry management with no consideration for ecological and human rights concerns have already led to a drastic shortage in quality logs from peninsular Malaysia and these shortages will extend into Sarawak and Sabah in this decade.

"By importing timber from a country with such scant regard for its environment, Australia is directly implicated in the destruction of pristine rainforest and the genocide of the indigenous peoples living there.

"We urge all consumers to avoid the use of rainforest timber and use locally produced alternatives such as recycled timber or plantation timber."

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