Kok: Let’s join hands to make our palm oil the world’s first 5-star oil

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 29: The Ministry of Primary Industries has called for close cooperation from all stakeholders in the oil palm industry in Sarawak, including the state government, in order to achieve 100 per cent Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification by the end of next year.

Its minister, Teresa Kok, said more efforts were needed to push for MSPO certification even though 24.4 per cent or 359,810.83 hectares (ha) of total planted areas in Sarawak had been MSPO certified as of Oct 31 this year.

As for whole Malaysia, only 22 per cent (or 1.26 million ha) of the 5.2 million ha of total planted areas have been MSPO certified.

“As such, we need the cooperation of all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and state governments to work alongside my ministry in order to achieve 100 per cent certification by 2019,” she told a press conference after a meeting with Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association of Sarawak (Doppa) at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) office here today.

“We want to show to the world that Malaysia’s oil palm estates and growers have good agricultural practices with traceability. We want to make our palm oil the first five-star oil in the international market,” she stressed.

Kok hoped the certification would enhance the whole value chain as well as the image and brand of Malaysia’s oil palm so that the commodity would be accepted in more countries.

Pointing out the importance of certification, she said: “Compliance of a standard implemented by the government, but which may not be fully recognised internationally yet, would enable Malaysia to renegotiate with European Union (EU), purchasers and even the governments with proof of progress made to fulfil (specific) standard and requirements. So there will be no reason to boycott Malaysia’s palm oil.

“We shouldn’t think that only EU will impose a standard, as they will influence other countries to follow suit and demand for certification and sustainability,” she added.

Doppa, she revealed, had agreed to work with the ministry as well as agencies like MPOB, Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC) and Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Sarawak to push for MSPO certification in the state.

“We need to seek the help of Doppa, which comprises many retired but experienced professionals from the oil palm sector, to go into the interior areas to reach out to farmers and explain to them the importance of obtaining MSPO certification. They are willing to do that,” she said.

With only RM30 million allocated under Budget 2019 as incentives for oil palm planters, including smallholders, to obtain MSPO certification in Malaysia, she admitted that the amount was not enough.

Kok (seated) holding a press conference after a meeting Doppa to discuss issues affecting local growers in Sarawak. Richard is seated second from left.

“We must show that we have made progress and results in our effort to push for certification, which will then enable us to apply for more funding from the federal government,” she added.

While the top importers of Malaysian palm oil is currently India (1.94 million tonnes) followed by EU (1.77 million tonnes) and China (1.61 million tonnes) in that order, Kok said through the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), they were exploring new markets, including the Philippines, northern African countries and Middle Eastern countries.

“After PM (Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad)’s visit to China, there have been a lot of enquiries on palm oil and palm-based products, including biomass of oil palm from Malaysia,” she assured.

Meanwhile, Doppa president Dr Richard Mani emphasised that low price of the crop was among the serious setbacks for local growers. A good price was crucial to help sustain the planters, especially Dayak planters, in the industry.

“We need the price to go up soonest possible and appreciation from the government through subsidies for fertilisers and other needs are very important to help smallholders from giving up,” he said.

Kok explained that besides the weak ringgit, low prices was a worldwide problem due to the economic slow down as other oil-related crops, including soya bean, face the same situation with excess production this year.

“Palm oil is a commodity where its price is driven by supply and demand. The price is at the lowest now, and it can’t go any lower. We project the price will certainly rebound as there would be more oil and fats demand in the upcoming festive seasons. We foresee that EU countries would increase import of oil beginning next year,” she concluded.