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European Union (EU) and United States (US) are reluctance to buy logs and timber-related products from Sarawak over concern of illegal logging and violation of native customary land (NCL) issues in the state claimed a Dayak non-governmental organization based in Kuching.

“The EU and US are generally sensitive to issues related to illegal logging and violation of native customary land (NCL) in many developing countries,” said Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) president Sidi Munan according to Borneo Post on Tuesday.

Sidi said this resulted only a small percentage of Malaysia’s total production of logs and timber were exported to European countries and US market, as they fear of perpetrating illegal logging and NCL violation in the country.

However the authorities refuted such claim and said the main reason the EU and US importing less timber from Sarawak were purely economic in nature Borneo Post said quoting an anonymous source.

“In fact the representatives of EU had met and discussed with the state’s producers and they did not mention specifically about problems relating to NGOs,” the daily quoted it anonymous source as stressing.

Sadia disagreed, saying that it is among the ‘stakeholders’ of the Swedish Forestry Stewardship Council and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council. Both councils regulate the ‘principles and criteria protocol’ in timber trade.

“The US and EU are very sensitive to issues related to NCR (Native Customary Rights). They do not want to risk buying the timbers even if they only suspected that these were extracted from NCL reserved or catchments areas,” Sidi said.

He added it would take only one country in Asia to adversely affect the others in the region because the US and EU saw Asia as one (region).

“In other words, if country ‘A’ does illegal logging, the EU and US will see neighboring countries with suspicion,” he elaborated.

According to Sidi, only one company in the state out of the many local producers has managed to export timber products to the US.

Sadia claimed did merit some weight especially when the state traditional timber market such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were reducing if not canceling their imports altogether.

Sarawak timber producers can’t afford to ignore the huge EU and US market particularly at a time when they need to find new market for timber products, like plywood.

They must attract the interest of the EU and US market not only to sustain the sector development, but also to make sure the state coffers continue to be in healthy condition.

The chief minister knew the stake are high and would be costly as he is facing a state general election