Japanese plywood importers have put a temporary halt on plywood orders from Sarawak because of high inventories, reports The Malaysia Star.

Wong Kai Song, chairman of the Sarawak Timber Association’s panel products committee, said sales began to slow in late May following a surge in demand triggered by the disaster in March. He said Japanese importers had now stopped buying completely, after importers had filled their warehouses in preparation for reconstruction.

Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation data shows Japan’s plywood imports from Sarawak reached 499,435m3, worth more than RM926m (US$309.6m) in Q2, compared with 296,162m3 valued at RM475.7m (US$159m) in the previous quarter.

Housing starts in Japan were around 7,200 units in June, up from average monthly levels of 6,200-6,400 units.

Wong predicted that the plywood market would now enter a period of stability with balanced supply and demand.

Sarawak has around 35 plywood mills with a combined capacity of about 4 million m3/year.