Thu, 11 Aug 1994

Timber baron Bob Hasan denies plywood boycott

JAKARTA (JP): Timber baron Mohammad (Bob) Hasan yesterday denied that South Korean and Japanese importers had boycotted Indonesian plywood and he blamed brokers for propagating misleading information.

"It was reported that we have a trade war with Sarawak. That's not true. You see that we're together here," Hasan said while introducing 15 visiting delegates of the Sarawak Timber Association.

The delegates met with executives of the Association of Indonesian Wood Panel Producers (Apkindo), which Hasan chairs, prior to the conference.

Local media reported earlier this month that plywood importers in South Korea and Japan had agreed to boycott Indonesian plywood following the founding of two Apkindo-owned companies in those countries to become their main distributors.

Unconfirmed sources said that Japanese and Korean importers, including the Korea Imported Plywood Association (KIPA), disagreed over the establishment of those two companies, which might significantly threaten their business interests.

Hasan, however, said that Apkindo established the two trading companies a long time ago.

Hasan said the declining sales of Indonesian plywood in Japan and South Korea were caused by the recent recessions in the two countries.

"Indeed, the governments should control inflation in their respective countries which could affect their economies. But that's still normal," he added.

Yasumitsu Mazaki, the Jakarta liaison official of Nippindo Co. Ltd., a Tokyo-based plywood importer, also denied the boycott rumor.

Mazaki quoted the Japanese Ministry of Finance as saying that the total plywood imports into Japan over the first semester of 1994 increased by 13.9 percent over the same period of 1993. Displaying a clipping from the Nikkan Mokuzai Shimbun newspaper, he added that plywood imports from Indonesia into Japan increased by 13.7 percent.

The newspaper reported that Indonesia supplied 1.81 million cubic meters out of Japan's total plywood imports of 2.15 million cubic meters during the first semester. Malaysia, Canada and the United States, supplied the rest of the imports.

South Korea

In a related development, Jerry White, the manager of Indo Kor Panels, an Indonesian-Korean joint venture, said yesterday that certain brokers had put forth the rumor to disrupt the plywood market.

White said that in August 1993, the Seoul government introduced policies to control inflation which slowed down the economy.

"The policy led to an immediate decrease in spending. Developers stopped constructing apartments and the demand for plywood was affected," he said, adding that this condition, however, has been changing slowly but surely.

"Some people perceived the lower demand as a boycott. And certain brokers provided misleading information," he said.

Referring to the report of some local media, Hasan, Mazaki and White called on journalists to be more professional in their news gathering and writing.

Hasan said that misleading information and unbalanced reporting can impede business.

Meanwhile, Lau Hui Kang, the chief of the Sarawak Timber Association delegation, said that the delegation's members had come to Indonesia to visit a number of forest concessions in Kalimantan.

Lau said the executives of timber firms in Sarawak hope to learn from Indonesia's reforestation programs. (09)