In Malaysia, 5.38 million hectares (91.6% of total oil palm plantation area of 5.87 million hectares) have received MSPO (Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil) certification. – AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

THE drive to promote the nation’s golden crop continues with the Malaysian Palm Oil Full of Goodness campaign to propagate the product’s healthfulness and versatility.

“Our Malaysian palm oil is healthful as it provides a slew of benefits to almost every layer of society including health, environment, sustainability, livelihood and prosperity,” said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Hajah Zuraida Kamaruddin who officiated at the recent campaign launch at Le Meridien Hotel, Putrajaya.

The palm oil industry is the fourth largest contributor to Malaysia’s economy and continues to be a major pillar of the country’s economic development.

According to Zuraida, Malaysia’s revenue recorded an increase of 40% – RM91.4bil from RM65.3bil – due to higher palm oil prices despite the decline in exports last year (as of November 2021, the total exports of palm oil and its downstream derivatives showed a decline of 8.8% from 24.3 million tonnes to 22.14 million tonnes recorded in the same period of 2020).

Zuraida (third from left) and Sng (third from right) at the launch of the Mari Kenali Sawit books.Zuraida (third from left) and Sng (third from right) at the launch of the Mari Kenali Sawit books.

India retained its position as the No.1 export destination for Malaysian palm oil with more than 3.2 million tonnes exported to the country. It is also exported to China, the EU, Turkey and Pakistan, among others. Malaysian palm oil is estimated to account for 24% of global palm oil production and 31% of world export in 2021.

Zuraida said that 2021 was a challenging yet eventful year for the industry as palm oil production was severely impacted due to a shortage of plantation workers, which caused harvesting activities to be delayed and lower quality of harvested fruit bunches. Malaysian palm oil production dropped by 1.3 million tonnes, resulting in the rise of palm oil prices as there was a shortage.

“Due to the global shutdown of borders, foreign labour was hard to come by. As such, the government agreed to employ 32,000 foreign workers with strict compliance with SOPs to overcome this problem,” she shared.

She added that 5.38 million hectares (91.6% of total oil palm plantation area of 5.87 million hectares) have received MSPO (Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil) certification. She thanked oil palm smallholders for their contribution and affirmed that the government will continue to assist them to achieve total certification by this year.

The minister was addressing participants of the Reach and Remind Friends of the Industry Seminar 2022 and Dialogue organised by the Malaysian Oil Palm Council (MPOC). The hybrid event was conducted virtually as well as on ground with more than 140 people attending the live event and 400 online via Zoom.

Mari Kenali Sawit books for school students.Mari Kenali Sawit books for school students.

The 12th edition of the event served as a platform for industry members to engage with the minister in a dialogue that examined the future direction of the palm oil industry. It also encouraged a deeper and critical look at some of the challenges that the industry is anticipating this year.

MPOC chairman Larry Sng Wei Shien said that the council’s aim is to drive promotion and market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its related products, and has built a presence in significant markets throughout the world.

“To strengthen our market presence in these regions, a number of events are being planned for 2022 to increase awareness and improve technical knowledge of palm oil applications in the food and non-food industries,” he said.

These events will focus on industry players, consumers, food and non-food manufacturers as well as the hotel/restaurant/café sector.

MPOC chief executive officer Wan Aishah Wan Hamid said the seminar is the council’s signature annual event that served to inform and update palm oil partners and industry players on the latest challenges and development in the market.

The first paper at the seminar on Exploring Opportunities in Developing Markets was presented by MPOC marketing and market development division director Faisal Iqbal.

He said that although production and export volume had decreased in 2021 in comparison to 2020, crude palm oil (CPO) exports, stocks and average price had increased.

“Some of the key issues and challenges facing the industry included protectionist policies such as non-tariff barriers, restrictions/bans implemented in some countries, withhold release order and change in PV value, negative consumer perceptions, low awareness of palm oil and its attributes, and trade disruptions – mostly due to Covid-19 related restrictions,” he said.

However, there are still many areas of growth to explore in the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa markets. In the Philippines and Vietnam, for example, the food service industry is growing rapidly while South Korea is increasing its biofuels blending mandate to 5% in 2030 from 3% currently. Continuous population growth is driving demand in the sub-Saharan Africa region while places such as Kenya and Mozambique have seen a surge in CPO and olein imports.

As part of MPOC’s marketing efforts in 2022, the regional Palm Oil Tradefairs and Seminars (POTS), Techno Economic Marketing for Palm Oil (Tempo) and international trade exhibitions are in the works.

Seeing how environmental issues are being brought to the fore nowadays, the second paper Promoting Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Globally presented by MPOC promotions and corporate communication division deputy director Razita Abdul Razak stressed on the need for MSPO to be part of the market differentiation strategy.

Marketing and promotional efforts for global recognition of MPSO for 2022 will be based on the premise of “Malaysian Palm Oil Full of Goodness”, as Malaysia’s sustainability standard will be enhanced for regional acceptance, demand and support.

A 360-degree marketing and promotional programme ensuring visibility and understanding of MSPO will be undertaken, ranging from engagements with key government officials, seminars and talks with trade association and the hotel/restaurant/café sector as well as road shows and out-of-home, electronic and social media advertising for general consumers.

Continuing on the subject of sustainability, Malaysia Forest Fund chief executive officer Dr Elizabeth Philip put forward the question “What’s in it for the palm oil industry?” in the third presentation.

She reiterated that at the COP26 summit (2021 UN Climate Change Conference), under the new global agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact – new pledges on methane gas, forest and land use and coal finance were made.

Among some of the measures that some of the countries agreed upon are to halt and reverse loss and land degradation by 2030, facilitate trade and development policies internationally and domestically, and implement sustainable agriculture. Leaders from over 100 countries also pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.

The Malaysian palm oil industry is also doing its part to ensure sustainable cultivation by adopting policies with emphasis on no deforestation, no peat development and no exploitation.

The seminar also saw the launch of the Mari Kenali Sawit books for primary and secondary students. The books highlight the benefits of palm oil and its contributions to sustainability and socio-economic development.

“I hope our students can get accurate information about palm oil and disseminate the knowledge to their parents and their peers so that more people can learn about this commodity and the industry. It is important to empower our children with knowledge on one of the country’s biggest commodities,” said Zuraida.

To wrap up the one-day event, a dialogue session and press conference with the minister was held to facilitate the dissemination of information and policies between the government, industry players and the media.

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