Mah: M’sia does not want trade war with EU

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is not looking for a trade war, but will retaliate if the European Union moves to ban palm oil from the continent’s biofuel mix and renewable energy sources, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

Mah, who delivered the keynote address at the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s (MPOC) “Reach and Remind Friends of the Industry Seminar 2018” yesterday, said Malaysia and other palm oil-producing countries were carefully watching the EU Parliament’s vote on the matter in the next fortnight.

“We are also going around to try and correct a lot of misconceptions – that we are destroying the environment, and that the Malaysian palm oil industry is run by a few large plantation companies destroying the environment,” he said.

“The reality,” he added, “is that there are 650,000 smallholders and 370,000 others indirectly involved in providing ancillary facilities and services.”

“Just as the EU is a major importer of Malaysian palm oil, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia also import a lot of European products,” Mah said.

“But we hope ... we can find a win-win situation for all.”

He said Malaysia is committed to the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil scheme, in order to have only certified sustainable palm oil by 2019, in time to meet the EU’s requirement by 2020.

The EU is Malaysia’s second biggest export market for palm oil, but there are other markets for the country to explore.

Mah said throughout last year, he had made official visits to major importers such as Iran, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, and MPOC had also opened an office in West Africa to become the continent’s activity centre for palm oil.

He said that for last year, export earnings from palm oil and palm oil products were estimated at RM75bil, an increase from 2016’s RM67.5bil.

Mah added that as of November, production of crude palm oil is ex­pected to hit 19.5 million tonnes.

For this year, the expectation is export earnings will hit RM80bil and more than 20 million tonnes in production figures.

To boost palm oil exports and reduce existing stock, the Government is lifting duties on palm oil exports starting from Monday until April 7.

“This move is open to all exporters, and there is no quota involved,” he said.