Mah: Malaysia needs to expand its palm oil market

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to look at developing its market share in more countries that are major importers of palm oil, says Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

Speaking at the Malaysian Palm Oil Council's "Reach and Remind Friends of the Industry" seminar and dialogue Tuesday (Jan 9), the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister said other major importing countries such as Iran, China, the Philippines and Vietnam were valuable markets in their own right.

Mah added that Malaysia was ready to respond if the European Union (EU) followed through with its threat to exclude palm oil from the latter's biofuel and renewable energy by 2021.

He said the exclusion would affect oil palm smallholders, of which there were about 650,000 in Malaysia, with another two million in Indonesia.

"I am not gung-ho and actively looking for a trade war, but I want what's fair for the palm oil industry and the smallholders," said Mah.

A proactive measure Malaysia is taking at the moment, he said, is to try and correct misconceptions about palm oil among EU parliamentarians.

"People think that the Malaysian palm oil industry is run by large plantation companies and destroying the environment.

"But the reality is that we have a lot of smallholders, whose livelihoods will be affected too," said Mah.

He added that the Ministry was  negotiating a free trade agreement with EU, and the palm oil issue was at the top of the agenda.

"However, I don't want to focus on a trade war, I want to focus on a win-win situation for both sides," he said.

Mah Siew Keong