Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal yesterday announced his plan to transform the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) in Sandakan into a furniture centre in Sabah.
Shafie said he had identified the most suitable place to set up a downstream value-added timber hub for furniture manufacturing, as it was close to several Forest Management Units (FMUs) in Sabah, including in Lahad Datu and Ranau.
"I see that it is time that we create a downstream value-added timber industry in Sabah where we can manufacture and export our own furniture with our own timber. Sandakan is the most suitable place and it will boost the stagnant industrial development here. Port in Lahad Datu which is not far from Sandakan is also perfect for shipping as it has deep sea.
"There are about 500 acres of land at POIC Sandakan that are not developed so we will try to readjust, and make palm oil related industries to be centralized in Lahad Datu instead. While I am aware that POIC Sandakan is owned by Sawit Kinabalu, we will make some adjustments to also make it into a furniture hub in Sabah.
"I have spoken to the State Industrial Minister to look into an approach to ensure that Sandakan will have enough supply in water and electricity, as well as the landscape; I am aware that there are some infrastructures that need to be upgraded.
"We are expecting to confirm a furniture factory by next week or mid-month, and it will be exporting furniture from here, using our resources to the Maldives and other international markets," he said.
Shafie also said he had engaged with several furniture manufacturers last week and found that some of them were already based in Kota Kinabalu, and that they did not mind to expand to Sandakan for the furniture hub to be centralised here.
He said this during a press conference after launching the new State Forestry Policy at the Forestry Department Mile 6 here, yesterday.
Shafie said the move would not only ensure that the state would have extra income, but it would also provide more job opportunities to the locals.