PM moots crop diversification to mitigate palm oil offensive

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference after the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Plan in Putrajaya, January 29, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference after the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Plan in Putrajaya, January 29, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — The adoption of cash crops in addition to oil palm could provide an income buffer for growers amid the ongoing decline of palm oil price, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad suggested today.

In remarks made during visits to farms across Selangor, he expressed admiration and surprise with the organised farming methods employed in today’s modern plantations.

“This is how we can continue to depend on farming for our livelihoods,” he said, adding that the land required for such diversification was minimal.

“If we only plant oil palms, we will cry when the price falls. But if we plant an additional ‘cash crop’ — crops that can provide daily returns — then we won’t be trapped by the prices of palm oil and rubber.”

Dr Mahathir went on to advise growers not to focus only on a single crop and said there were many others that were in regular demand.

By strategically rotating these, he said growers could ensure a steady stream of revenue that would help offset any significant drops in their primary crops.

The Primary Industries Ministry and other federal bodies have been campaigning hard against the negative portrayal of palm oil in the West, which it insists is unjustified and biased.

Despite its efforts, however, such views have led to lower demand and a resultant decline in palm oil prices worldwide.

Palm oil price closed at RM2,200 per tonne this week or about half its 2008 peak of RM4,298.

The drop is particularly significant to Malaysia as the world’s largest palm oil exporter.

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