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Main non-wood forest products

The most important NWFP of Malaysia are rattan, bamboo, medicinal plants and wild fruits. Other NWFP include palm, resin, tannin, ferns, barks, vegetables and wood-oil.

General information

In Malaysia, minor forest products are defined as all forest products other than logs because of their relatively small contribution to revenue generation. The term "minor forest product" has been replaced recently by the term NWFP recognizing the market and non-market values of these products. NWFP include rattan, bamboo, firewood, charcoal, damar, palm, wood-oil, gums, resins, medicinal plants and others (Poh Lye Yong 1994).

No inventories to quantify non-wood forest resources have been done except for the National Forest Inventory by Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia (every 10 years) (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).



Wild vegetables are common food for rural people. The consumption of the young fronds of Diplazilon escidentitin and Stenochlaena palustris is very popular in most indigenous communities in Sarawak and both vegetables are sold commonly in the urban markets (Burgers 1993; DoA 1992). Also Etlingera elatior and E. punicea (Zingiberaccae) are consumed in both rural and urban communities of Sarawak, but in smaller quantities. Coinnielina paludosa and Rungia sp. are popular among certain sections of the rural population. The peeled stem tips of the young shoots are eaten. R. borneense and Rungia sp. occur relatively rarely, but the soft leaves are valued highly by isolated rural communities. The cultivation of this species is feasible and often for farmers with subsistence-oriented production systems it is a more attractive option than planting annual exotic vegetables (Metz 1998).


Table 1. Major fruit species in Malaysia

Group 1: Non-seasonal fruits, potential for export market

Bananas (Musa sapientum L.)

Papaya (Carica sapientum L.)

Pineapple (Ananas comosus [L.] Merr.)

Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola L.)

Watermelon (Citrus lanatus [Thumb.] Mansf.)

Muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.)

Group 2: Seasonal fruits, potential for local consumption or export market

Mango (Mangifera indica L.)

Durian (Durio zibethinus L.)

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.)

Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum L.)

Citrus (Citrus spp.)

Group 3: Popular fruits which have not been exploited for commercial cultivation and export

Duku/langsat/duku langsat (Lansium domesticum Jack.)

Ciku (Achras sapota L.)

Cempedak (Artocarpus cembeden Spreng.)

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L.)

Group 4: Fruits for processing

Soursop (Annona muricata L.)

Guava (Psidium guajava L.)

Source: Rukayah Aman (1998)

According to Metz (1998) there is considerable potential for wild vegetables to contribute to the intensification of shifting cultivation systems, particularly in Sarawak and Southeast Asia in general if appropriate cropping practices are developed using existing farming techniques.

Malaysia has a rich diversity of fruit trees, many of which are indigenous and endemic to the country. It has been estimated that about 500 species of fruit trees are found in Malaysia’s rain forests of which about 100 are considered edible. Only some 60 species are cultivated and utilized. Sixteen species belong to major fruits (Rukayah Aman 1998).

Additionally, Rukayah Aman (1998) has presented 61 rare and wild edible fruits in Peninsular Malaysia and their potential uses.


About 1 200 of the higher plants in Malaysian forests are reported to have medicinal properties. Currently only about 200 are used in preparing various traditional medicines, but plant-based products such as herbal medicines and health foods are gaining more popularity among Malaysians. Based on data obtained from 4 000 Chinese herbal stores, the annual sales value in Malaysia was about $M500 million in 1994 and the estimated market value of traditional medicine was between $M1 to 2 billion in 1995 (Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali 1998).

Many aromatic plant species in local rain forests have potential use for the production of essential oils, turpentine, flavours and fragrances. Although many aromatic and medicinal plant resources are available locally for industry, the supply of materials continues to come mainly from China, India and Indonesia, with only a small amount being harvested from Malaysian forests (Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali 1998).

Table 2. Commonly used medicinal and aromatic plants in Malaysia

Latin binomial Local name Common use
Eurycoma longifolia tongkat Ali health tonic
Labisia pumila kacip Fatimah herbal preparation - postpartum
Centella asiatica pegaga health tonic, jamu
Cinnamomum spp medang medicinal preparation
Cucurtna xanthorriza temulawak

medicinal and herbal preparation

Clicurma domestica kunyit jamu cosmetic
Zingiber zerumbet lempoyang medicinal preparation
Andrographis paniculata akar cerita medicinal preparation
Eugenia aromatica cengkih health care/toothpaste
Mentha arvensis pudina health care/toothpaste
Cananga odorata kenanga hair care/perfumery
Michelia champaca cempaka hair care
Aloe barbadensis lidah buaya hair care/ facial cleanser
Cymbopogon nardus serai wangi perfumery, insect repellent
Citrus spp limau perfumery, cleanser
Cassia alata gelenguang medicinal preparation - skin care
Kaempferia galanga cekur cosmetic, herbal preparation
Source: Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali (1998)

Medicinal plant species are collected from their natural habitats. Thus the supply of these materials is very uncertain, with product quality being variable. Some examples of common medicinal plant species used as major ingredients in local herbal products are Eurycoma longifolia, Labisia pumila, Centella asiatica, Cinnamomum spp., Curcuma xanthorriza, Andrographis paniculata, Morinda citrifolia and Kaempferia galanga. Aromatic plants such as Qymbopogon nardus, Cinnamomum zeylanium, Michelia champaca and Cananga odorata are mainly used in food and personal care products and are cultivated commonly (Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali 1998).

Table 3. Import and export of medicinal plants for pharmaceutical uses in Malaysia, 1986 to 1996

Year Import ($M) Export ($M)
1986 93 426 747 4 171 067
1987 85 219 513 5 227 073
1988 143 862 161 8 192 234
1989 160 250 315 12 263 211
1990 160 426 878 16 777 638
1991 181 474 845 18 725 948
1992 197 678 880 10 053 811
1993 212 619 287 21 925 302
1994 224 971 213 34 951 451
1995 256 673 093 41 241 046
1996 264 756 564 55 871 852
Source: Statistical Department (1996) in Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali (1998)

Respectively, the import value for both medical and aromatic plants increased from $M141 million in 1986 to $M431 million in 1996 and the exports increased from $M5.9 million to $M63 million over the same time (Ng Lean Teik and Mohd Azmi Muhammed Idris 1997). Detailed trade figures for different medicinal and aromatic plants from 1986 to 1996 are provided by Ng Lean Teik and Mohd Azmi Muhammed Idris (1997).

Utensils, handicrafts and construction materials

Rattan and bamboo are the most important and valuable NWFP of Malaysia. On average (1981 to 1990), rattan contributed about 13.8 percent of the total royalties collected from NWFP, while bamboo accounted for about 71 percent. Foreign exchange earnings from rattan increased from US$3 million ($M8 million) in 1981 to US$26.5 million ($M71.5 million) in 1990. Respectively earnings from bamboo increased from US$81 150 ($M219 106) in 1988 to US$176 474 ($M476 480) in 1990. In addition, these two forest industries employ 24 370 individuals, mostly rural people, in 1 685 factories (Poh Lye Yong 1994).

There are about 600 rattan species in the world, of which 106 species are found in Peninsular Malaysia. Based on the National Forest Inventory (1990–1993) the estimated rattan resource was about 825 million sticks (the length of each stick being 3 m) (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

Table 4. Major commercial rattan species in Malaysia


Local name


Calamus manan

Rotan manau


C. caesius

Rotan sega

Binding and weaving basketware

C. scipionum

Rotan semambu

Walking sticks, umbrella handles

C. ornatus

Rotan dok

Cheap furniture

Korthalsia spp.

Rotan dahan

Cheap furniture, broom handles

Source: Department of Forestry, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah, in Poh Lye Yong, (1994).

Commercial rattan species (about 20 according to FAO [1997]) are located in the northwest of Peninsular Malaysia, while in the south fewer canes are available, probably because of over exploitation. Rattan-processing mills are concentrated in west coast states with bigger forest areas and better infrastructure facilities. The stock of rattan species harvested and the amount of rattan required by the industry are reported by Tan (1989) and Abd. Latif et al. (1990a), respectively (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

The planting of Calamus manan is conducted by the government and the private sector. By 1997 more than 31 000 ha had been planted. Out of this, 7 000 ha have been planted in rubber plantations throughout the country (Aminuddin and Salleh 1994; Abd. Latif and Aminuddin 1996). Large plantations in Sabah mainly grow C. caesilts and C. trachycoleus. So far about 10 000 ha have been established. C. scipionum and C. palustris are also considered as potential species for plantation (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

There are about 700 rattan mills and 525 are engaged in manufacturing with about 13 percent of the latter being export oriented (Abd. Latif and Aminuddin 1996). The rest are mainly cottage and small-scale industries. Annually, the rattan industry requires about nine million 3 m length sticks of the superior cane, Calamus manan, and two million 6 m length sticks of the small diameter cane, C. caesius (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

Peninsular Malaysia has an abundant supply of raw rattan. The total gross value collected is about $M5 million per month. The value can be increased more than twentyfold if the manufacturers concentrate on downstream processing. Increased value-added processing has increased foreign exchange earnings already and the employment opportunities in the rural–urban sectors (the export value of rattan products from Malaysia increased by 200 percent in 1990) (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

Bamboo is next to rattan in terms of economic importance in Malaysia. Bamboo has not, however, been utilized extensively and its use is limited to the production of poultry cages, vegetable baskets, utensil products etc. (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998). There are about 70 known bamboo species in Malaysia: 50 in Peninsular Malaysia, 30 in Sabah and 20 in Sarawak, of which only 12 species are being utilized commercially (FAO 1997).

Table 5. Commercially utilized bamboos in Malaysia


Local names


Bambusa blumeana

Buluh duri

Toothpicks, furniture, musical instruments, shoots as food

B. heterostachya

Buluh galah

Toothpicks, chopsticks, blinds

B. vulgaris

Buluh minyak

Paper, furniture

Dendrocalamus asper

Buluh belong

Fences, bridges, baskets, shoots as food

Gigantochloa scortechinii

Buluh semantan

Satay sticks, toothpicks, blinds

Schizostachyum brachycladum

Buluh nipis

Chopsticks, handicrafts

Source: Department of Forestry, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sahah, in Poh Lye Yong (1994)

There are 1 032 bamboo-based industries of various sizes in Peninsular Malaysia but only 104 mills have appropriate machinery to produce products such as skewers, chopsticks and toothpicks (32 mills), furniture (2 mills) and crafts (70 mills). While these 104 mills are categorized as medium and large scale, the remaining 928 mills are classified as cottage and small-scale enterprises. Cottage industries making handicraft items occur mainly in the west coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, whereas industries making poultry cages and vegetable baskets tend to concentrate plantations around Tapah in Perak (Wong 1989). The local market for bamboo products is worth about $M3 million annually (Aminuddin and Abd. Latif 1994) (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).

Bamboo plantations should be established to ensure a continuous supply of high quality raw material. Commercially usable bamboo species grow mainly in northern Peninsular Malaysia, in logged-over forest and on river banks and hillsides (Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).


Many chemicals, present in various parts of plants, have commercial application (e.g. latex from rubber trees, the bark of certain mangrove trees such as Rhizophora mucronata for tanning). The availability of synthetic resins has reduced the trade of natural resins (Abdul Razak Mahd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998).




Wildlife is exploited for protein and medicinal sources. Many wildlife habitats have been overexploited causing the displacement or death of several animal populations. The loss of forest by large-scale logging has a significant impact on wildlife. The majority of the forests affected have been the lowland forests below 100 m, which support most of the wildlife (Stevens 1968). The Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and the green peafowl that once roamed the lowland region of Peninsular Malaysia are now considered to be extinct. In a recent study conducted by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), in 1986 only 21 species of mammals and birds were threatened while in 1996 a total of 85 species were considered threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (DWNP/DANCED 1996) (Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998).

Over the last 10 years, the DWNP has collected over $M17 million in revenue from wildlife utilization for the state governments. This revenue is in the form of licenses for game, pets and from import and export taxes (Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998).


Table 6. Revenue collected by DWNP from wildlife licenses, 1986 to1995


Licenses amount ($M)

863 235
852 492
1 193 787
1 125 550
1 741 225
2 074 994
1 965 307
1 921 052
2 024 682
1 916 159
17 138 586
Source: DWNP Annual Reports 1986–1995, in Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd (1998)

Table 7. Wildlife harvested legally in 1995

Species Purpose of harvesting Animals per license Animals harvested
Wild boar Consumption No limit 10 463
Python Skin 50 52 780
Monitor lizard Skin 50

138 652

Long-tailed macaque Pet 5 39
Pig-tailed macaque Pet 5 275
Flying fox Consumption 50 6 380
Civet Consumption 5 84
Mouse deer Consumption 5 282
Leaf monkey Pet 5 2
Cobra Skin 100 3 428
King cobra Skin 50 39
Barking deer Consumption 1 0
Sambar deer Consumption 1 0

Source: DWNP/DANCED (1996), in Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd (1998)

There has been no economic evaluation of wildlife consumption in Peninsular Malaysia. A recent estimate for Sarawak showed wildlife consumption values of meat alone at about $M187 million per year (Sarawak Forest Department 1996). Applying acceptable market values for such consumption, the value of three wildlife species harvested legally would be worth about $M6.9 million per year for Peninsular Malaysia (Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998).

Table 8. Value of selected wildlife species consumed per year

Species Number of animals

Value of consumption*

harvested annually

Wild boar 10 000 10 000 x 40 kg x $M3 = $M 1.2 million
Python 50 000

50 000 x $M50 per skin = $M1.5 million

Monitor lizard 140 000


140 000 x $M 30 per skin = $M4.2 million

Total   $M 6.9 million
Source: DWNP 1996 (* = estimates), in Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd (1998)


Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali & Abd. Latif Mohmod. 1998. Non-wood forest resources and products: management and research considerations. In M.N.B. Nair, Mohd Hamami Sahri & Zaidon Ashaari, ed. Sustainable management of non-wood forest products. Proceedings of an International Workshop held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 14-17 October 1997. Serdang, Universiti Putra Malaysia Press.

Azizol Abdul Kadir & Rasadah Mat Ali. 1998. Medicinal plants in Malaysia: their potential and utilization. In M.N.B. Nair, Mohd Hamami Sahri & Zaidon Ashaari, ed. Sustainable management of non-wood forest products. Proceedings of an International Workshop held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 14-17 October 1997. Serdang, Universiti Putra Malaysia Press.

FAO. 1997. Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study: Country Report – Malaysia. Working Paper No: APFSOS/WP/07. Forestry Department Headquarters, Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Forestry Policy and Planning Division, Rome. Bangkok, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Metz, O. 1998. Wild vegetables as potential new crops in farming systems of Sarawak, Malaysia. In M.N.B. Nair, Mohd Hamami Sahri & Zaidon Ashaari, ed. Sustainable management of non-wood forest products. Proceedings of an International Workshop held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 14–17 October 1997. Serdang, Universiti Putra Malaysia Press.

Ng Lean Teik & Mohd Azmi Muhammed Idris. 1997. Trade in medicinal and aromatic plants in Malaysia (1986–1996). FRIM reports. Kuala Lumpur.

Poh Lye Yong. 1994. Malaysia. In Non-wood forest products in Asia. RAP Publication 1994/28. Bangkok, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Rukayah Aman. 1998. Rare and wild fruits of Peninsular Malaysia and their potential uses. In M.N.B. Nair, Mohd Hamami Sahri & Zaidon Ashaari, ed. Sustainable management of non-wood forest products. Proceedings of an International Workshop held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 14–17 October 1997. Serdang, Universiti Putra Malaysia Press.

Sivanathan Elangupillay & Abdullah Mohd. 1998. Wildlife resources as non-wood forest products and their sustainable management. In M.N.B. Nair, Mohd Hamami Sahri & Zaidon Ashaari, ed. Sustainable management of non-wood forest products. Proceedings of an International Workshop held at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, 14-17 October 1997. Serdang, Universiti Putra Malaysia Press.


This report has been realized within the framework of the EC-FAO Partnership Programme "Sustainable Forest Management in Asia". The contents are based on available information at FAO headquarters in Rome.

Additional information on NWFP in Malaysia would be appreciated and duly acknowledged.


Forest Research Institute Malaysia,


52109 Kuala Lumpur,



In Malaysia hunting and wildlife recreation have served as tourist attractions, research subjects and for educational purposes. Malaysia with its abundant wildlife resources could benefit from wildlife conservation and services. The consumptive or commercial and non-consumptive uses of wildlife as NWFPs have been enormous in the areas of game hunting, tourism and nature education (Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998).

To cater for the increasing demand for outdoor activities and recreation, a total of 85 forest recreation sites have been developed in Peninsular Malaysia. These areas coupled with the more renowned national parks such as the Taman Negara in Peninsular Malaysia, the Kinabalu National Park and Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah and the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak have promoted ecotourism tremendously in Malaysia. There is also the growing importance of the forest for nature education and research. Notable examples are the Pasoh Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia, the Danum Valley in Sabah and the Bako National Park in Sarawak which are acclaimed internationally as centres for tropical forest studies (FAO 1997).

Taman Negara is a national park, straddling the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang; it was established in 1938/1939 with a total area of 4 343 km2. About 10 percent of the park is designated for ecotourism development where visitors are provided access to the natural resources of the park (DWNP 1987).


Table 9. Value of Taman Negara as a major wildlife destination using selected indicators

Indicator Total ($M)
Government revenue ($M) + 393 101
Taman Negara resort income ($M) + 15 000 000
Guides’ income ($M) 640 000
Boat rental 252 000
Tour agencies 500 000
Private chalets 600 000
Restaurant * 360 000
Souvenir shops 480 000
Guide books * 100 000
Fishing equipment 20 000
Camping equipment 100 000
Boat builders 50 000
Total 18 495 1010
Sources: (+) DWNP data, (*) estimates in Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd (1998)

Amenity forestry and ecotourism are expected to gain greater importance in the future. The Forestry Department, Peninsular Malaysia has already earmarked a few more areas with potential for development as forest recreation areas. The Sabah State Government has already identified future directions in the Sabah Tourism Master Plan (1995–2010). Several key sites in forest reserves such as Borneo Rain Forest Lodge in Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserves will be promoted to cater to nature tourism activities. In addition, the State Forestry Department has also identified and developed seven other forest recreation areas throughout the state. The situation is quite similar in Sarawak. The state government has acknowledged ecotourism with its growth of 10–15 percent per annum as an important source of foreign exchange (FAO 1997).




Economic value




Trade name

Generic term


Part used




Quantity, value




1, 2, 3


F, P, O

W, C

N, I


Plants and plant products



Medicinal plants


N, I

Annual sales’ value in country: $M500 million in 1994; estimated market value: $M1–2 billion in 1995. Imports of medicinal plants $M264 756 564 and exports of $M55 871 852 in 1996


Azizol Abdul Kadir and Rasadah Mat Ali 1998

Utensils, handicrafts, construction materials







Export of US$176 474 in 1990

Local market of bamboo products is worth $M3 million annually


Poh Lye Yong 1994

Abdul Razak Mohd. Ali and Abd. Latif Mohmod 1998




F, P

W, C


Exports of US$26.5 million in 1990


Poh Lye Yong 1994

Animals and animal products



Wild boar




Annual harvesting of 10 000, value, $M1.2 million


Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998






Annual harvesting of 50 000, value, $M1.5 million


Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998


Monitor lizard




Annual harvesting of 140 000, value, $M4.2 million


Sivanathan Elangupillay and Abdullah Mohd 1998

Importance: 1 – high importance at the national level; 2 – high importance at the local/regional level; 3 – low importance

Parts used: an – whole animal; ba – bark; bw – beeswax; le – leaves; nu – nuts; fi – fibres; fl – flowers; fr – fruits; gu – gums;

ho – honey; la – latex; oi – oil; pl – whole plant; re – resins; ro – roots; sa – sap; se – seeds; st – stem; ta – tannins

Habitat: F – natural forest or other wooded lands; P – plantation; O – trees outside forests (e.g. agroforestry, home gardens)

Source: W – wild, C – cultivated

Destination: N – national; I – international



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