Fadillah: Open up more markets for our commodities

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s commodities must open up more markets globally in anticipation of greater challenges and stricter rules at the global level next year, says Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Plantation and Commodities Minister, said among them was the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which poses difficulties and challenges to the palm oil industry.

“We can see that in 2023, despite achieving success, our production has been lower compared with the previous year due to the uncertain global economic situation.

“Economic growth has been constrained this year because of geopolitical conflicts and high inflation in some countries.

“These circumstances pose challenges for us, in addition to the new regulations that we need to comply with, introduced by countries that import our products,” he said.

Fadillah said the focus now should be on how to expand product markets in countries other than those that traditionally import them, for further development.

He said this at the opening of the National Agricultural Commodity Day 2023, themed ‘Driving National Agricultural Commodity Sustainability’ yesterday.

With the projected 3% global economic growth in 2024, he said, the environment would become more challenging.

He said this is further intensified by increased active and aggressive competition in the market for products.

Fadillah noted that the government would ensure the plantation and commodity sectors are not affected following the tightened rules.

“Among some of the rules was the prohibition of deforestation for agricultural commodities, such as oil palm, rubber, cocoa and coffee, including the nomadic farming practised by the Orang Asli.”

As a member country of the United Nations, Fadillah said Malaysia adhered to the principles of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“The first SDG goal is eradicating poverty. For us, our efforts in eradicating poverty are through plantation and agricommodity.

“That was why we introduced the Felda model in the past,” he said, referring to the Federal Land Development Authority to eradicate poverty by developing land through the cultivation of oil palm and rubber.

“The ministry would ensure smallholders are not left out. This is because, for them, compliance with the new and stricter rules means more costs compared with other bigger and financially capable agriculture companies.

“We must take care of the smallholders, which is not less than 500,000 nationwide, because they have been playing a significant role in agrocommodity,” he said.

Despite the small allocation given to the ministry in the government’s budget, Fadillah said it has been an important ministry because agricommodity made great contributions to the national income.

As of September this year, he said the agricommodity sectors contributed RM60bil or about 5% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He added that export values reached nearly RM118bil (11.5%) of the country’s total export earnings.

Fadillah also presented the National Agricommodity Awards to winners from six sectors – oil palm, rubber, timber, cocoa, pepper and kenaf during the event.

Among them was Datuk Dr Freezailah Che Yeom, 84, who won the Industry Icon Award in lumber and forestry, with his vast experience and contributions to the industry.

It included Manggie Agam, who won the Best Pepper Smallholder Award, for his Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) that maximised yields.

Another winner was Michael John Henry Tao, who won the Cocoa Farming Innovation Award (Sarawak region) with his invention – a machine that can break open a cocoa pod five times quicker than manual.

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