SUBANG, Nov 27 — Unless the government is able to channel palm oil towards food production, there is no future for the industry, former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said today.
Daim was responding to reporters when asked why he had earlier indicated that coconut is a “future crop” and not palm oil.
“Study has been done. Unless they do more research, in the case of palm oil, to turn it into let’s say, more for food, then there is the future.
“Because at present, in terms of land usage, the biggest if palm oil,” he said when met by reporters after speaking at the Poverty in Malaysia: Reality vs Perception dialogue organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI).
Commenting further, Daim said next to palm oil, estate land is used for rubber trees.
However, he said even rubber prices have gone down drastically.
“The smallholders are suffering so then I’ve been discussing with them (if they are suffering yet the manufacturers are making money) how do you (assist) the smallholders.
“Maybe a joint-venture, because in the case of furniture (production) they want more rubber wood because the demand is more for rubber wood.
“So maybe you can increase (that). But again, it takes 15 years before you can cut down a tree. Maybe we need more research and if we can reduce by half, then we make 50 per cent more profit,” he said while suggesting that more research and development needed to be done.
Previously reported, coconuts are Malaysia’s fourth largest industrial crop behind oil palm, rubber and rice.
According to a report by Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), the country is among the top 10 coconut producers in the world, although production fell between 2014 and 2016.
Discussions to bring back coconut plantation has recently resurfaced due to palm oil prices impacted by the European Union’s (EU) decision to avoid palm oil due to concerns of forest clearing and environmental degradation directly linked to oil palm cultivation.
Industry observers reportedly said while the coconut industry should be brought back, there are challenges it faces, such as its inability to compete with imports in terms of price and scale.
Meanwhile, Daim also added that he was against paddy planting, indicating that the industry is reliant on subsidies.
“I am against planting paddy. When I was minister, I said don’t plant paddy because we always have to subsidise.
“As long as there are subsidies, the people will remain poor,” he added.