Furniture manufacturers in Johor are facing foreign labour shortage and it has caused at least 10 manufacturers in Muar to close last year, said the Federation of Johor Furniture Manufacturers and Traders Association president Koh Chon Chai. He said the problem is serious and the industry players in the state were short of 10,000 foreign workers.
“This has affected production. Some have been forced to close down,” he said on the sidelines of a trade conference.
Koh said Muar is a major furniture production base for the country and 63% of the furniture exported by Malaysia is produced in Johor.
“There are some 800 factories. We export to over 100 countries. Our export is worth about RM9.5 billion. Demand is good due to the quality of our raw materials and good design,” he said.
Koh said automation was not the solution to the labour woes.
“Our products can only fetch premium prices when we tell our customers that our furniture is handmade,” he said.
He said, the handmade requirement has become one of the obstacles for automation of the industry.
According to statistics, a total of 8,048 foreign workers were brought in for the furniture industry in 2016.
In June, in a move to help the industry, the government banned the export of rubber wood from July 1.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said that the decision was made following complaints by the furniture industry and exporters that they were facing a shortage.
Wee said the country exported some RM300 million in raw rubber wood yearly to countries like Vietnam and China.