KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — Natural rubber and rubber-based products were the ‘stars’ in 2017, with export up 30.2 per cent to RM32.3 billion, said Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.
He said the other commodities, such as palm oil, also performed reasonable well, increasing by 14.6 per cent to RM77.8 billion.
“The palm oil export has surpassed our initial target of RM70 billion last year and for 2018, we are confident of achieving over RM80 billion,” he told Bernama today.
The total export earnings of commodity products amounted to RM140.3 billion, or 15 per cent of Malaysia’s total merchandise export, 14.4 per cent higher than RM122.6 billion in 2016.
The commodity sector, he said, remained the largest net exporter and recorded a trade balance of RM100.8 billion compared with electrical and electronics (RM90.1 billion) and petroleum and gas (RM36 billion).
Mah said although the palm oil and palm-based products recorded a positive number, only 10 per cent of the trees has been utilised.
“We are going into more value-added products, including the oleochemical products and pharmaceuticals, with the aim to increase the palm oil consumption.
“The commodity has got big future in the country and we are seriously looking into it,” he said, adding that currently there were companies that were ready to exploit the biomass industry in Malaysia.
In his commentary in one of the local newspapers last month, Mah said, the fronds, trunks, empty fruit bunches and palm kernel shell were biomass from palm oil output that most Malaysians were unfamiliar with.
Hence, many were also unaware of the vast opportunities to turn palm biomass into wealth, he said.
The ministry welcomed industrial players who would put big money into research and development in the field, he said.
Yesterday, the minister received a visit from British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Vicki Treadell, where both discussed the proposed European Union (EU) Parliament’s move to remove palm oil from biofuels mix by 2021.
They also talked about the future cooperation between Malaysia and the UK, especially in exploring the development of palm oil-based high value-added downstream products to create new economic opportunities.
Mah is scheduled to lead a Malaysian delegation to Europe for the Malaysia-EU Palm Oil Consultation starting Saturday.
The mission aims to negotiate with members of the tripartite consultation from influential countries to seek their support and state Malaysia’s firm stand against the injustice done to the palm industry.
Besides several EU commissioners and policymakers, the delegation will also meet government representatives of Germany, UK, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Poland. — Bernama