PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and Indonesia will meet in May to talk about the practice of open burning in Indonesiar that has contributed to the annual occurrence of haze.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said the meeting, which would be held in Jakarta this time, would also focus on efforts to stem illegal logging and the importation of illegal logs from Indonesia.
"We are very mindful of the fact that drought has been forecast for Malaysia over the next few months and this can lead to the possibility of trans-boundary haze from the open burning in plantations in Indonesia.
"We have a joint committee between Indonesia and Malaysia on commodities that meets twice a year, the next of which will be in May.
"We hope that our exchanges will help reduce the instances of open burning," he told reporters after launching a seminar on the national policy on timber industry at Marriott Hotel here on Thursday.
At the height of the haze last year, a non-governmental organisation had claimed that a few of the 34 Malaysian companies currently operating oil palm estates in southern Kalimantan and Sumatra were involved in the open burning.
The Indonesian authorities were supposed to have investigated the claims and submitted the list of Malaysian companies involved to the Malaysian government.
However, Chin said he had never received any official report, adding that "presumably when the haze is gone, so is the interest in the culprits".
On the allegation that Malaysian companies were behind the illegal logging activities in Indonesia, Chin said the Government was keen to ensure that all timber used in the local furniture industry was legally sourced.
"But because of our porous border, we must make more effort at joint enforcement," he said.
Earlier, Chin said it was important for the local furniture industry to look into a policy of sustaining itself seeing that it would run into a shortage of resource without proper planning.
"As it is, the industry is facing a disjointed supply of rubber wood as most of the supply is in the northern region of the Peninsula Malaysia while most of the furniture makers are concentrated in Johor.
"We may also face shortage in certain species of wood like meranti, which is heavily commercialised.
"The industry must look at what it can do to maintain their current level of production and to ensure the efficient use of the resource," he said, adding that one solution was for furniture makers to base their manufacturing in Sabah and Sarawak, which still have ample logging resources.
From January to November last year, the export earnings of the timber industry reached RM21.2bil.