PUTRAJAYA, Oct 16: Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Malaysia Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong received a courtesy call from the United States Ambassador, H.E. Kamala Lakhdhir together with delegates from the United States (US) Embassy in Malaysia.
The meeting was also attended by Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) secretary-general Datuk K Yogeesvaran. This represents the first meeting between ministry officials and their US Embassy counterparts since Mah assumed office at the end of June 2016.
The minister described the meeting as a great milestone in forging a much closer relationship between the two countries towards a better understanding of the complexity and scale of palm oil, rubber and timber related issues.
During the courtesy call, Mah expressed that Malaysia is looking forward to further increasing agricommodity trade between the two countries.
Since 2009, the Malaysian palm oil industry has been listed in the US Department of Labour’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour, first as one of the industries using forced labour, and later child labour in 2014. This issue was raised during the discussion. Mah emphasised that Malaysian palm oil industries recognised, and have taken efforts to ensure the welfare of workers is taken care of.
As a way forward, the Malaysian Cabinet mandated in March 2017 for MPIC to undertake a comprehensive survey on the labour situation in Malaysian palm oil plantations using the International Labour Organisation (ILO) approach. As part of their preliminary preparation, ILO has thus far conducted a fact-finding activity from Sept 13 to 15 and a multi-stakeholder workshop on Sept 27 to 28.
Mah emphasised that protecting the welfare of workers is one of the requirements under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme, which has been implemented since 2015 and will be made mandatory nationwide by the end of 2019. As of July 2017, a total of 245,079 ha of plantations have been certified under the MSPO Certification Scheme, which includes 7,570 ha of oil palm acreage planted by smallholders.
Malaysia and the US share a strong bond in the agricommodity trade, with a total commodity trade up to RM14.11 billion in 2016. Malaysia’s export of agricommodities and commodity-based products in 2016 increased 0.9 per cent (RM13 billion) compared to 2015.
For the period of January-July 2017, export value of agricommodities was RM8.75 billion, a 14.8 per cent growth compared to RM7.6 billion during the same period in 2016. The exports are largely rubber products valued at RM3.8 billion, followed by palm oil and palm-based products at RM2.5 billion, and timber and timber products valued at RM2.1 billion. —Bernama