Malaysia expects plantation exports bonanza

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia can expect record high plantation commodity exports this year as global demand for palm oil, rubber and pepper surpasses supply. 

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said from January to October, exports had jumped 28 per cent to RM118.2 billion. “That has already exceeded last year’s overall figure,” he added.

Last year’s RM113.29 billion achievement was 24 per cent higher than 2009’s RM91.16 billion. It also overtook 2008’s previous record of RM112.43 billion. 

Malaysia’s plantation commodities comprise palm oil, rubber, timber, cocoa, tobacco and pepper.

In the last decade, the sector had been the nation’s second largest foreign income earner after manufacturing. 

Since then, the export value has grown three and a half times. 

“I think we can hit RM140 billion this year,” Dompok told Business Times in an interview.

To a certain extent, Dompok said the higher palm oil, rubber and pepper pricing was also fuelled by the weakening of the US dollar against the ringgit. In the first eight months of this year, the US dollar weakened by about three per cent against the ringgit from RM3.05 to RM2.95.

The US dollar forms the basis for major index of commodity prices. Hence, Malaysia’s plantation commodity exports like palm oil, rubber, timber, cocoa and pepper are quoted in the greenback.

The minister said palm oil earnings, which are slated to touch RM80 billion this year, will make up the bulk of the country’s plantation commodity’s exports. High palm oil prices have been contributing to higher income for oil palm planters. So far, it is averaging at around RM3,100 a tonne.

“Although palm oil is our number one revenue contributor, pepper exports seemed to have grown the fastest,” Dompok said.

In the first 10 months of this year, pepper exports jumped the highest by 42 per cent to RM224.06 million. Timber exports slipped 3.1 per cent to RM16.52 billion, while tobacco products fell 2.6 per cent to RM833.90 million.

Rubber tappers have good reason to smile as bulk latex has been trading at good price of more than RM10 a kilogramme in the first four months of the year. Although it has since settled to around RM6.60 per kg, rubber tappers still feel motivated to tap their trees regularly.

“As world crude oil continues to trade at high prices, so will natural rubber because it is a substitute for synthetic rubber in making tyres. In the first 10 months, our rubber exports expanded by 28 per cent to RM27.34 billion,” Dompok said.

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