Sabah wants to become a key timber producer again

Sabah is set to become a key timber producer again in about five years but much of it will no longer come from the natural forests here. The state is expected to produce about five million cubic metres of timber annually. Almost all of it would come from tree plantations currently maturing, said Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan. “We are aiming for an income of as much as RM500mil (RM2.16bil) per year once the harvesting from the tree plantations is in full swing.” The tree plantations mostly belonged to the state-owned Yayasan Sabah, producing quality timber of local tree species.

Mannan said the tree plantations were part of a massive sustainable forest management (SFM) initiative which the Sabah government had undertaken since 1997. Other key sources of revenue will include the collection of fees for entry into recreational areas such as certain forest reserves and parks.

Sabah is expecting to collect some RM50mil in royalties from Yayasan Sabah from its 100,000ha of oil palm plantations which the foundation had been allowed to develop from a portion of harvested timber concession. The royalties are in addition to the oil palm tax the state government collects from the industry.

The Sabah government had sacrificed substantial forest revenue by adopting the SFM initiative that led to a stop in unsustainable methods of timber harvesting. The revenue from Sabah forests peaked in 1979 at RM1.1bil. This dropped to RM150mil last year.