Malaysia to persuade France not to raise tax on palm oil imports, says minister

Mah Siew Keong, talking to French parliamentarians. — File picture by Saw Siow Feng
Mah Siew Keong, talking to French parliamentarians. — File picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 13 — Malaysia, as a major palm oil producer, will try and persuade France not to hike duties on Malaysian palm oil which currently attracts 21 per cent import tax, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

“We are engaged in high-level discussions with French parliamentarians.”

Malaysia is concerned as the proposal is to increase the import tax on palm oil only and not other vegetable oils.

“The tax must be fair and apply to similar vegetables oils,” said Mah, adding that the review on the vegetable oils tax was expected to be deliberated in the French Parliament in November.

Saying that the proposed tax was discriminatory, the minister, who just returned from a working visit to Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, added that if France were to increase the tax, then the European Union would also do the same.

“Oil palm is the most productive crop among vegetable oils and forms an important component of the food supply chain,” he said.

Mah said Malaysian palm oil was a good and healthy oil that contained no genetically modified foods and was scientifically proven to have similar properties as olive oil.

Industry players say that the potential crisis looming now for the industry was the use of palm oil for energy with the attack now focused on sustainability.

Oil palm cultivation in Malaysia is always being blamed for widespread deforestation that destroys biodiversity, degrades ecosystems, emits greenhouse gases and carbon which contributes to climate change and traps workers in inequitable working conditions.

To the non-government organisations, deforestation in developing countries should be stopped at all costs while sustainability was actually linked to the price of palm oil.

The market perception which labelled palm oil as “unsustainable” would have economic implications that is high price discounts of palm oil vis-a-vis other vegetable oils.

Mah’s trip, from September 5-10, was aimed at promoting palm oil, rubber and timber and to address increasing concerns over the French food taxation and food safety issues relating to palm oil, as well as timber certification matters in the Netherlands.

Palm oil contributes about €167 million (RM760 million) in tax revenue to France. — Bernama 

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