Reforestation, Tectona Grandis and Azadirachta Excelsa

Diminishing forests are due to excessive and illegal loggings because of a high demand for timber in woodbased industries.

To regreen the nation, a well concerted efforts has to be done to maintain a sustainable forest management. The present supply of forest resources in general has tremendously depleted and replanting activities should have been actively pursued by now.

An efficient forest management and utilisation programme should be on a very high priority in government's implementation list. The programme must includes reafforestation, and new timber species that can be planted on a commercial basis, and efficient enforcement.

Reforestation will helps soaking up pollution and dust from the air, rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems, mitigate global warming since forests facilitate bio-sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and at the end can be harvested for resources.

Private sectors, along with the government agency should increase their participation in reforestation projects to help ensure the continuous supply of forest resources in the future.

For example, those who have travelled along the North-South Expressway from KL to the northern part of Malaysia must have noticed vast stretches of tree immediately by the road shoulder on the both side of  the highway. Those trees are teak (Jati in Malay) or it's scientific name Tectona Grandis. 

Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan Bhd (PLUS), the North-South Expressway concessioner since 1997 has been spending lots of money to "green" its expressways with indigenous and exotic plants in conjunction with the "Green the Nation" project advocated by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

In his book, "Teak in Sabah a sustainable agro-forestry", Datuk Harris Salleh, a former Chief Minister of Sabah, wrote that if teak (Tectona grandis) were planted along the North-South Highway in Peninsular Malaysia and assuming only 50 per cent suitability for planting teak (or 350km out of the 772km) the estimated revenue yield in 20 years is a possible RM3 billion.

Azadirachta excelsa, another timber species locally known as sentang or prized teak wood, which grows easily on all types of soil, especially those with adequate water content, should go on a commercial basis as this will ensure farmers of a good income since unlike some fruit trees, needed little care. All types of land are suitable for growing and the sentang can be harvested after only six to seven years, whereas the time frame for other species commonly logged as timber is 30-odd years. However, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) found a 15-year cycle is the most suitable period before harvesting, adding that during this period a tree could achieve a girth of 30 to 40 cm, the required girth for harvesting, even though it can reach a height of 30-40 metres, with a diameter of 80cm-120cm at breast height.

Sentang thrives on fertile and well-drained soil, where the rainfall is about 1,800mm/annum and above. Its growth rate is better on level or flat land than on slopes or mountainous areas. Trees planted in plantations have also been found to grow at a faster rate than those in the wild.

Government should consider waiving further timber tax on sentang and teak to encourage landowners and the private sector to be involved in agro-forestry and should embark on a commercial forest plantation programme in rural areas to improve villagers' earnings and quality of life, where idle land as well as the villagers' backyard would be planted with these two species which have commercial value especially in overseas' market.

To further encourage commercial forest plantations, to sustain material supply for the timber industry and to increase investment in timber industry, Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) has offer credit opportunities in forest plantation to private companies in the form of soft loans with terms and conditions are as follows:-
  • Interest rate of 3.0% (compounded annually for 15 years (grace period) and will be compounded daily for 5 years after the grace period)
  • Loan period: 20 years;
  • Grace period of 15 years (with yearly compounded interest rate);
  • Repayment period of 5 years beginning in year 16 (with daily compounded interest rate).
How ever the programme is mainly focused on two species, namely Rubberwood (Timber Latex Clone) and Acacia spp. (mangium/hybrid). But other additional fast growing timber species such as Tectona grandis (Teak); Azadirachta excelsa (Sentang); Khaya spp. (Khaya ivorensis/Khaya senegalensis), Neolamarckia cadamba (Kelempayan/Laran); Paraserianthes falcataria (Batai) and Octomeles sumatrana (Binuang) are also recommended.

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