Proposal to export excess oil palm seeds

This is written by my colleague Roziana Hamsawi.

KUALA LUMPUR: THE government is in favour of the suggestion that the country's excess oil palm seeds be exported. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the details of this would have to be worked out with the seeds producers and local planters.

"We need to see how those who are interested to export their seedlings must ensure that the local industry still gets sufficient seeds," he told Business Times after officiating at the 7th International Planters Conference here yesterday.

He said the ministry will discuss with the industry players but added that there is no urgency to lift the ruling on export restriction of germinated oil palm seeds.

"Our priority is the Malaysian planters because there is a lot of replanting being done here. We need to replant with the best seeds that we can get. We would not want to see our planters be deprived of any good seedlings," said Dompok.

The minister said being allowed to export oil palm seeds would no doubt be good for industry players as this would bring in additional revenue for them. "I am sure any plantation company which is into seedlings production, like Felda, would be interested in this," he said.

Malaysia produces 80 million seeds a year, of which 50 million are supplied to local farmers, leaving 30 million to be exported.

The government has since the 1970s, restricted the export of oil palm seeds, not only to ensure adequate supply to local farmers but to protect the seeds' intellectual property rights from being copied by other oil palm producers.

Malaysia, however, can only supply the seeds to Malaysian companies abroad and to certain countries like Thailand and Indonesia on a government-to-government basis.

Earlier in his opening speech at the conference organised by The Incorporated Society of Planters, Dompok said the plantation sector must continue to assume an important role in the food supply chain. "This is taking into account the food requirements of the global population, currently at seven billion and the lack of suitable land for further expansion of the planted area," he said.

He added that the industry needs to explore and invest in research and development to contribute towards optimisation of current land bank and development of new products.

Dompok also urged the industry to implement measures to ensure long-term reduction of foreign labour, adding that the government will continue to identify ways to promote the participation of local labour force as well as adoption of mechanisation activities.

"I would like to encourage the industry to provide focus on this area, including collaborating with research institutions in the production of new machineries for adoption by the plantation sector," he said.

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