Ta Ann produces hybrid plywood through increased reforestation efforts

Ta Ann Holdings Berhad has increased production in planted acacia trees, a fast growing commercial timber species, from logged-over areas in Bintulu which was reforested more than a decade ago, writes The Star.

KUCHING: Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, a pioneer in Sarawak reforestation sector, is increasing the harvest of its plantation logs to produce hybrid plywood.

Financial controller Augustine Siaw said that last year, Ta Ann started harvesting planted acacia trees, a fast growing commercial timber species, from logged-over areas in Bintulu which was reforested more than a decade ago.

“This year, acacia trees from more planted forest areas will be harvested,” he told StarBizWeek.

Siaw said the company had invested about RM100mil to establish over 32,200ha of planted forests in six areas. Last year, it planted 2,150ha.

He said that this year’s target was to plant about 3,000ha, adding that the planting activities cost RM4,000 to RM5,000 per hectare.

About 95% of the company’s planted forests were cultivated with acacia trees, which take about 15 years to mature. Other planted timber species are kelampayan, sawi, benuang and engkabang.

A large scale kelampayan planting is being carried out this year while a second rotation planting for areas that had been harvested is also underway.

Ta Ann plans to plant up to 70,000ha to achieve sustainable cutting cycle of 15 years.

The Sarawak government has set aside one million hectares for planted forest projects to increase the supply of raw materials for timber processing mills. The authorities have given out some 40 licences to companies to undertake planted forest projects.

Last year, Sarawak produced 9.6 million cubic metres of logs, of which 60% were reserved for processing mills and the balance for exports. The log production for 2011 was the lowest in more than 20 years.

Siaw said tree plantations yielded higher wood supply than natural forests due to the high density of trees that could be cultivated.

He said one hectare could produce some 400 matured acacia trees although between 500 and 600 trees could be planted initially as not all would survive.

From last year’s harvesting of plantation logs, Ta Ann has come up with initial data on yield of planted forests and percentage of acacia suitable for plywood processing.

A trial production at the group’s plywood mill on the products that could be manufactured from planted acacia, the extent of recovery and improvement as well as the related costs would form the basis of a preliminary assessment on the prospect of tree planting projects.

“We are on a trial development of hybrid plywood using planted acacia as the main component which will be mixed with hardwood from natural forests,” said Siaw.

Acacia floor base is one of the new eco products being developed.

Ta Ann sees the harvesting of its planted acacia forest to greatly enhance its competitiveness and enable it to come up with more eco-friendly products.

The company has been producing eco-friendly products for the Japanese market using entirely imported logs from its plantation in Tasmania or a combination of imported wood and locally produced tropical logs.

Last year, Ta Ann raised the sale of its eco-friendly floor base products to 46% of its overall plywood sales from 27% in 2010. Floor base products command higher export value.

Siaw said the more matured plantation logs from Tasmania produced better quality wood than the locally planted acacia trees which had yet to attain full maturity.

Ta Ann owns and operates a processing mill in Tasmania that produced 130,450 cu m of veneer last year.

He said the company’s plywood exports to Japan had slowed down this year due to the economic uncertainty and slow start to the reconstruction of towns destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami which hit that country more than a year ago.