Palm oil exports to surpass RM65b this year

Penang: Malaysia's palm oil exports this year may break 2008's record of RM65 billion, thanks to higher average palm oil prices and improved global demand.

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), the country has achieved RM30.49 billion in palm oil exports in the first five months of this year.

So far, palm oil futures prices are averaging at RM3,300 per tonne, higher than last year's RM2,700 per tonne.

"We're looking at doing better than last year's RM62.8 billion as crude palm oil futures had been and continues to trade above RM3,000 per tonne.

"Fresh fruit bunch harvest has also started to build up," Plantation Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told reporters after officiating at the 9th ISP National Seminar 2011 held here yesterday.

Also present at the press conference was the Incorporated Society of Planters (ISP) chairman Daud Amatzin.

Palm oil prices are set to stay firm as the current limited global supply is due to continue for the rest of 2011 as Indonesia, in its bid to woo more investment in downstream activities, continue to impose high export duties on palm oil shipments.

In 2008, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tonnes but the following year, it dipped to 17.6 million tonnes. In 2010, it plunged to 17 million tonnes. This means Malaysia's palm oil output had declined for two straight years, while Indonesia's production has been rising.

This year, however, Dompok is hopeful of palm oil output rising again to 2009's level of 17.6 million tonnes, as more oil palms mature and bear more fruits. "This is especially so from Sarawak's oil palm estates," he said. His optimism is also underpinned by his ministry jointly fast-tracking approvals for foreign labour with the Home Ministry since the beginning of the year.

For many years, foreign labour shortage has severely affected palm oil output and therefore billions of ringgit in export opportunities.

"I don't see approval of foreign labour a problem anymore if there is still available labour. I know we face competition with Indonesia for skilled workers to harvest the oil palm fresh fruit bunches."

Asked to comment on Parliament's move to enact laws on minimum wage, Dompok said: "In the light of relatively good commodity pricing in the world markets, the government feels that plantation workers deserve better pay. I feel remuneration should be based on productivity."

Seed producers and the Malaysian Palm Oil Association had last year raised the issue of unwarranted imposition of varying degrees of quarantine controls of oil palm planting materials by the departments of agriculture of Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak that have caused much grievance to oil palm seed producers.

Effective January 1 2011, the Sabah state government had even subjected the entry of oil palm planting materials to be certified free of the Philippines' coconut cadang-cadang viroid (CCCVd) disease by Universiti Putra Malaysia's laboratory.

Dompok yesterday said that after a series of meetings with the Department of Agriculture, crop experts and seed producers hosted by MPOB, all parties have agreed to lift the quarantine controls and allow free movement of the planting materials within the country. “Orange-spotting on the oil palm leaves are not new. All parties have now decided that the alarm over claims of CCCVd infecting our oil palms is unnecessary,” he said.

Quarantine controls have been lifted effective June 16 and the replanting of unproductive oil palms under the National Key Economic Area programme should progress according to schedule, he added.

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