KOTA KINABALU: A Sarawak-based company became the third from the neighbouring Borneon state to invest in Sabah’s state-owned POIC (Palm Oil Industrial Cluster) Lahad Datu industrial park.
In a sale and purchase agreement signed here on Thursday (March 16), BNE Trading Sdn Bhd of Kuching bought 2.6ha at POIC Lahad Datu for trading in biomass, particularly palm kernel shells which was one of the residue materials from the oil palm industry.
The agreement was signed between POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Fredian Gan and BNE Trading managing director Kiing Teck Wee.
The signing was witnessed by POIC Sabah Group chairman Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, permanent secretary to the Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry Datuk Thomas Logijin and a representative from Invest Sabah Berhad.
Welcoming BNE Trading’s investment, Gan said it testified to Lahad Datu being the centre to Sabah’s oil palm industry, as well as the facilities and connectivity of POIC’s port.
He said that while oil palm and biomass downstream industries remained on POIC Sabah’s agenda, the company had broadened its horizon to becoming the logistics hub for the Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region by leveraging on its strategic geographic location and outstanding port infrastructure.
He also said BNE Trading investment underlined the importance of further developing the potentials in the palm biomass downstream industries.
A dedicated biomass policy for Sabah would further facilitate the development of the industry, he added.
On its vision for the investment at POIC Lahad Datu, Kiing said BNE aimed to develop the base into its regional base to grow the biomass trading industry.
Although he made no reference to the region’s oil palm industry, it was widely known that Sabah and Sarawak combined for half of Malaysia’s total oil palm plantings of about six million hectares.
This, if taken with the massive oil palm hectares in neighbouring Kalimantan provinces of Indonesia, accounted for a good portion of global palm oil production of which more than 80% come from Malaysia and Indonesia.
"The oil palm industry has grown drastically," said Kiing, before adding, "and we see us making this (Lahad Datu base) as the regional biomass hub."
In December last year, Starcity Ventures Sdn Bhd bought 1.4ha at the same industrial park for a cold storage fruit and vegetable distribution business.
Starcity had an operation in Kota Kinabalu whilst the bulk of its business was spread all over Sarawak.
Habour-Link Logistics Sdn Bhd, a player in logistics, was the first Sarawak-based company at POIC Lahad Datu, starting its business there in 2016.
The recent investments were expected to significantly increase cargo throughput at the port at POIC Lahad Datu which consisted of four terminals respectively dedicated for dry bulk, liquid and container cargo.
It also had a barge landing area for loose bulk cargo, such as palm kernel shells (PKS).
PKS, as the name implies, was the hard shell encasing the white kernel that resembles coconut flesh.
It was much sought-after because of its high calorific value, making it an ideal feedstock for energy production.
Japan has been a major PKS market since the country made renewable energy mandatory a number of years ago.
BNE had its origin in Kuching in 2014 and had since been exporting PKS to Taiwan, Thailand and Japan, with the latter being currently the main destination.
It envisaged an export of about 100,000 tonnes per year.