Panels & Furniture Asia Mar/Apr 2020

March / April 2020, Issue 2 | Panels & Furniture Asia 22 | IN PERSON By Szeto Hiu Yan THE NEED TO EXPORT The Japan Wood-Products Export Association was only formed in 2004 against a backdrop where Japan’s mature forests have reached harvesting age but timber self-sufficiency rate has fallen to 18 per cent due to the availability of cheaper imported wood. “On the other hand, the beneficial role of forests and wood in mitigating global warming has come to the forefront worldwide. Efforts to use Japanese forests in circulation was kickstarted once again, partly with the intention of contributing to exports. That was how the Japan Wood-Products Export Association came about, in cooperation with the industry and the wood community,” said Inoue Mikihiro, Secretary General of Japan Wood- Products Export Association. Th e a s s o c i a t i on c u r re n t l y ha s 89 wood companies and wood industry associations as members, as well as 150 members from the local governments. Thenext step for Japan's Wood Product Exports After decades of dependency on its local market, Japan’s wood products industry is facing a culmination of challenges that sees wood products manufacturers venturing into the overseas markets. JAPAN’S WOOD PRODUCT EXPORTS IN RECENT YEARS Japan’s most highly demanded wood product export remains to be logs. Faced with a shrinking population and contracting domestic demand, its wood products industry has turned to the overseas market to sustain growth. “ While our main exported wood products are still logs, we do have many processed wood products that are of high quality and durability. By exhibiting at trade shows, we hope to introduce them to the overseas market,” shared Mikihiro. In recent years, the main destination for Japan’s wood product exports is China, where they enjoy a high demand. Other export markets include South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan. In 2018, the association investigated the export potential of Japanese timber products to Singapore and found that there is potential, but they have to first promote Japan’s wood products as few Japanese wood product brands are known here. This was why the association brought alongmembers to promote their products at the BEX Asia exhibition last year. In Japan, the forestry and timber industries are recognised as growth industries. The government is already working on strengthening the supply chain management from logging, processing to distribution to end-users. CHALLENGES While Japan’s forestry and wood products industries are seeking to expand, they have to first cross several hurdles. One challenge is the lack of infrastructure to support the forestry industry that is seeking to expand. “Our forests grow at 8 million cubic metres per year, almost equal to our demand for wood. However, only 30 million m 3 is being utilised. There are still limits in reaching the ideal state River side project in Tokyo uses S-tech wood for outdoor decking