Keynote Address by YB Datuk Hajah Zuraida Kamaruddin, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Malaysia

Introduction

1. It is indeed a great honour for me to be here, and a pleasure to connect with all our Indian friends at India’s Premier International Conference & Exhibition, GLOBOIL 2021. I would have been delighted to meet everyone in person but the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink our strategies and approaches and to adapt to virtual means of communication.

2. I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to the organisers, for successfully organising the event in these difficult times. I would also like to commend on how India has increased its vaccination pace to fight Covid-19 Pandemic which is commendable as more than 180 million vaccine doses were administered in the month of August and a total of 700 million until now. India has left a mark on the global map leading the way in vaccinating its population on priority.

3. The coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe at an alarming speed, bringing the world to a standstill. It has been more than 18 months and the virus has shown little signs of abating. This has disrupted the economic, social and, most importantly, health infrastructure of almost every nation. The devastating impact on the world economy by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused around 114 million people to lose their jobs in the year 2020. While global prices of food have reached record high levels and food prices have climbed highest in a decade as prices rallied about 33% in the past year. Supply chains have also been affected by shortage of workers and high shipping costs further exacerbating the problems faced by the global community.

4. In the vegetable oil market, palm oil holds a significant place as not only in providing food but also employment to a large sector of population across the globe. The universal applications and various health and nutritional benefits has made palm oil the most consumed oil especially in the developing countries. Palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil crop in the world, the per hectare yield of palm oil is highest compared to other vegetable oils. By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 10 billion, and as the global population will increase, agricultural land will be scarce and palm oil will play a key role in providing the much needed food security. Food security has already been an issue which is reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that over 815 million people as chronically undernourished.

Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil and the SDGs

5. Malaysia is one of the largest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world. In 2020, Malaysia accounted for 25.8% and 34.3% of world’s palm oil production and exports, respectively. In 2020, oil palm planted area covered about 5.9 million hectares or 18% of total land area in Malaysia, while producing 19.14 million tonnes of palm oil and 2.20 million tonnes of palm kernel oil. The palm oil industry also provided RM73.25 billion in export revenues which accounted for 3.6% of Malaysia’s total GDP. In addition to this, this sector also provides direct and indirect employment to more than 600,000 people in Malaysia.

6. Malaysian palm oil industry had started implementing sustainable practices since 1980’s. Being one of the largest producers, we have taken utmost precaution to safeguard the environment. Malaysia had established the certification schemes way before they were launched worldwide. We have laid out strong regulatory and monitoring mechanisms to guarantee that the oil palm industry is sustainably developed in Malaysia.

7. The Government of Malaysia through the Ministry of Plantation Industry and Commodities and with the collaboration of MPOB has issued the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification and made it mandatory for the Malaysian palm oil industry. MSPO has been aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and currently about 88% of Malaysian palm oil producers are certified under the MSPO. In addition to this and as a testament to our efforts in maintaining biodiversity, the oil palm sector has been funding several conservation projects throughout Malaysia, ensuring humans and wildlife coexistence.

8. Malaysia has been able to bring down its forest losses after the implementation of MSPO since 2015. Based on the report by Global Forest Watch, Malaysia’s primary forest losses had been reduced for the last four (4) consecutive years by 60.5% from 185,000 hectares in 2016 to 73,000 hectares in 2020. According to the data shared by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Malaysia, the forest cover in Malaysia is approximately 55.3%, upholding the pledge made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

9. Despite several uses and benefits of palm oil, research has proven that palm oil contains good nutrients although while some of the western countries are trying to deny this fact and are working to put a negative connotation to it. The incessant false allegations by anti-palm oil NGO’s has created false perception on the efforts put in by Malaysia to conserve forest and wildlife. These allegations generate more unnecessary imposition on certification and this has to be rectified immediately. If we are not careful, this could threaten the livelihood of our farmers especially small holders and makes palm oil more expensive.

Malaysia and India Cordial Relationship

10. Relations between India and Malaysia have come a long way since our independence in 1957. Both the countries are on excellent friendly terms with each other. India has always been and will continue to be an important trading partner for Malaysia. In 2020, India was ranked as the 9th largest trade partner for Malaysia with a total trade value of RM55.29 billion. While from January to July 2021, total trade between India and Malaysia was recorded at RM38.89 billion. Malaysia exported 1.8 million tonnes of palm oil to India during Jan-July 2021. We are committed to further strengthen market positioning in product enhancement particularly in India and in other eastern countries.

11. I take note that India is putting in efforts to achieve self-sufficiency in edible oil production and The National Mission on Edible Oil – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) has been allotted USD1.48 billion to reach the target. Malaysia, as pioneers in palm oil industry would like to collaborate with India especially in achieving sustainability certifications which would be for the betterment of both countries.

Future Undertaking

12. New areas for cooperation such as technical and trade collaborations should also be explored to rejuvenate business linkages and to ensure continuous progress of the bilateral trade between the two (2) countries.

13. With this, I would take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the organizers for inviting me to this event. I also wish to each and every one of you a very fruitful participation. Wishing Globoil 2021 a great success.

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