Archive for 2014

Palm oil gains set for longest run

KUALA LUMPUR: (Bloomberg) Palm oil climbed for a ninth day to head for the longest run of gains in more than a decade as flooding in Malaysia hurt prospects for harvesting, compounding a seasonal slowdown in production in the largest grower after Indonesia.

The contract for March delivery rose as high as RM2,305 a tonne yesterday on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives.

A ninth day of rising prices would be the longest run since June 2002, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Palm oil climbed to RM2,308 a tonne two days ago, the highest level since November 4.

Heavy rain that flooded parts of Malaysia over the past two weeks would continue for at least another week, risking disruption to oil palm fruit harvest, Commodity Weather Group forecasted. The constant downpour is also disrupting rubber supplies from Thailand and this had boosted prices.

“Key growing areas are inundated,” said Phillip Futures Sdn Bhd derivatives specialist David Ng. “Delayed harvesting activities and seasonally lower production will hamper yield levels in coming weeks.”

Output in Malaysia typically drops in the fourth quarter and the initial months of the year, usually bottoming in February.

Production might contract 11 per cent in December, in line with seasonal patterns, while reserves might fall four per cent, said Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd analyst Alan Lim in a report yesterday. Declining inventory should support prices as it reflected stable demand against lower supply, he said.

The current flood-induced rally puts palm oil futures on course for 2015's first quarterly advance. Prices climbed 3.7 per cent since the end of September, thus moderating this year's average price decline to only 13 per cent when compared with that of 2013. 

Trade politics fuel smear campaigns

BATTLE FOR MARKET SHARE: Attempts to defame palm oil via food labeling laws in Australia and Europe have manifested into trade barriers. With the United States of America (USA) making false allegations of child labour at the estates, industry veterans tell OOI TEE CHING that palm oil exports are being denied equal opportunities to trade.

IN 2009, France’s largest frozen food maker Findus announced it will remove palm oil from its products in favour of rapeseed oil. French retailer Casino, too, said more than 200 food products would be palm oil-free by the end of 2010. This would also apply to its other retail divisions like Franprix, Leader Price and Monoprix. Another French food retailer Auchan said it was working on ways to guarantee all its products were palm oil-free. 

British retail chain Marks&Spencer also campaigned against palm oil by putting up five-foot displays in its stores stating: “We think that destroying rainforest for palm oil is too high a price to pay for a biscuit.” 

Soon after, Australia proposed the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling — Palm Oil) Bill 2010. That bill was not passed. If it was, Australian consumers would have been misled into believing that palm oil was bad for health.

At present, palm oil is taxed €100 (or RM426) per tonne in France. In 2011, the French government proposed raising it to €400, so that foodstuff containing it, like Nutella, the popular chocolate spread, would become very costly. The proposal was shot down.

In March 2013, Dutch Board for Margarine, Fats and Oils head Frans Claassen reportedly said negative campaigns could force food companies to replace palm oil and therefore cut its imports. The European Union’s (EU) palm oil imports account for 10 per cent of global production, and nearly half are shipped in via the Netherlands.

Since 13th December 2014, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation had mandated specification of vegetable oils (i.e. palm, rapeseed, sunflower, soya) on the ingredient list. 

But food companies had also printed “No Palm Oil” on the front labels, which insinuates that palm oil is bad and needs to be avoided. Today, French chocolate maker Galler and supermarket chain Delhaize are displaying “No Palm Oil” labels on their food packaging.

Malaysian Oil Scientists and Technologists Association president Tan Sri Augustine Ong looked despairingly at photographs of infant milk at a supermarket in Singapore with “Palm Oil Free” signages. 

He shook his head. “It has come to this part of the world, too. This is defamatory. The public is being misled into believing that the saturated fats in palm oil are bad when in reality, they are a necessary part of a balanced diet.” 

A former Malaysian Palm Oil Board director-general, Ong recalled the first attack on palm oil’s reputation in the 1980s when outraged American industrialist Phil Sokolov suffered a heart attack and blamed it on palm oil consumption.

Sokolov started a campaign called “The Poisoning of America” that featured nationwide full-page newspaper advertisements describing the dangers of saturated fats in palm oil. His supporters insisted that palm oil consumption increased blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk — a misconception that still looms to this day.

Ong acknowledged that palm oil contains a higher percentage of saturated fats compared with soft oils such as olive, soya, rapeseed and sunflower. But it must also be highlighted that half of palm oil is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated — known to increase good cholesterol and benefit the cardiovascular system.

Since the 1980s until now, Ong noted there have been studies proving the hydrogenation of liquid oil into spreadable margarine is the real trigger in raising risks of cardiovascular diseases. 

“The truth is, palm oil does not contain cholesterol and saturated fats are a necessity in our daily diet. The real villains in cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the artificial trans fats brought on by hydrogenation of soft oils to make margarine.”

He said there are more than 150 studies proving that tocotrienols, vitamin E variants in palm oil, lower bad cholesterol.

Ong noted it is not a coincidence that defamatory campaigns on palm oil originate from rival oil-producing continents which have lost global market share to palm oil, as Malaysia and Indonesia expanded their oil palm plantings. 

Malaysia and Indonesia, which contributes to 85 per cent of global palm oil output, produce around 20 million tonnes and 33 million tonnes, respectively.

Next year, global palm oil output is expected to total 63 million tonnes while soya and rapeseed oils are seen to touch 47 million tonnes and 27 million tonnes, respectively. 

In the 15 years to 2015, Oil World and other authoritative statistics show global palm oil output expanding two times faster than soya and rapeseed oils. 

The world’s top soyabean producer is USA while the world’s number one rapeseed producer is the EU. 

“As more discriminatory measures are imposed on the palm oil industry, exporters from Malaysia and Indonesia are denied equal opportunities to trade,” said Ong, adding that green activists’ smear campaigns deny smallholders of decent livelihoods and consumers of a healthy alternative to trans fats.

Next year, the US expects to reap 108 million tonnes of soyabeans and the EU targets to harvest 23 million tonnes of rapeseed.

These oilseeds are crushed for their oil and the solids are processed into animal feed. 

Typically, 100 tonnes of soyabean yield 15 tonnes of soya oil. Likewise, 100 tonnes of rapeseed yield 40 tonnes of rapeseed oil.

Australia is the world’s second-largest rapeseed exporter, shipping 2.12 million tonnes a year, mostly to the EU.

The world’s dominant traders, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, which are big beneficiaries of the EU farm subsidy under the Common Agricultural Policy, are the buyers of Australian rapeseed feeding into the EU biodiesel pipelines.

Incorporated Society of Planters chief executive officer Azizan Abdullah concurred with Ong that the green activists’ defamatory campaigns against the palm oil industry are very much fuelled by trade politics of the world’s top soyabean and rapeseed producing continents.

On the US Department of Labour’s recent claim that Malaysia’s palm oil industry engages child labour and forced labour, Azizan said: “The credibility of these claims is questionable.”

He pointed out that Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had refuted allegations of child labour while adducing a comprehensive survey on the labour situation in the estates.

Based on International Labour Organisation guidelines, the study covered workers, employers and labour contractors across 68 oil palm plantations and smallholdings.

A total of 1,632 workers in Selangor, Perak, Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak were interviewed without the presence of their employers.

In Sabah, this study revealed some of the foreign workers’ children occasionally tag along to the fields. Even then, the children are only allowed to do so after school , on weekends or during school holidays. They help their parents in simple tasks, such as collecting loose fruits.

The study concluded there is no systemic forced labour or child labour in the plantation industry. 

“The way I see it, the children are filial to their parents. On the other hand, oppression is unjust use of power to impose an unequal relationship and deny another’s rights or value. The real victims of trade oppression here are the planters," he said.

“Why should planters’ rights to grow oil palms and rubber on their land be dictated by coercive terms and conditions imposed by western economic powers? These manifestos hurt the livelihoods of millions of planters in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Africa.

“Why are tropical planters being denied their rights to re-invest for the future earnings of their investors?” asked Azizan.

On safe ground

KUALA LUMPUR: ANALYSTS and plantation players have dismissed concerns of a major impact the flooding in the East Coast, the worst Malaysia has seen in decades, would have on palm oil output.

They said that for one, the three severely affected states — Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang — are not major producing states.

Historically, Malaysia Palm Oil Board’s data have shown crude palm oil (CPO) output tend to trend downwards at the end of the year. 

In December 2013, CPO output was 1.67 million tonnes and in December 2012, it was 1.78 million tonnes.

“There are two key points here. The floodprone East Coast is not a major palm oil-producing area ... and the December output is expected to trend lower month-on-month after Malaysia’s production peaked early in August this year,” Maybank Investment Bank Bhd research analyst, Ong Chee Ting, told Business Times yesterday.

“I think in 2015, palm oil supply growth is likely to be muted as planters are going to have a good harvest of 20 million tonnes of CPO this year. The supply concern for next year could buffer the downside in palm oil prices,” he added.

Earlier, a Reuters report sounded the alarm that the ongoing floods could reduce December's CPO output by 18 per cent from last month's 1.66 million tonnes, a bigger disruption than previously expected. 

Floods in the three states have, so far, displaced around 100,000 people.

Risks of supply cuts has fuelled bullish sentiment in palm oil prices. CPO futures on the Malaysian Derivatives Exchange yesterday continued its uptrend for two weeks, closing at RM2,250 per tonne as traders factored in December’s seasonally lower production.

Some people pointed out Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) could be the biggest loser among big players from the ongoing floods in the East Coast as it owns more oil palm plantations there.

A source close to FGV, however, said while its estates may be affected by the rising waters, the damage is likely to be minimal as the estates are far from the flood-prone areas. “FGV has very few estates in Kelantan, which is the worst hit,” the source said.

FGV, the world’s largest CPO producer, has a planted area of 97,605ha in Pahang, 19,542ha in Kelantan and 11,448ha in Terengganu.

A Sime Darby spokesman said its plantation has not been affected.

National Association of Smallholders president Datuk Aliasak Ambia said its members had, so far, not reported any large losses. “Other than the private owners who have been affected by the floods, I have not heard of anything from big plantation firms, such as Felda in Machang, Kelantan,” Aliasak said.

'Palm Oil Free' labels damaging to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: THE spreading of “No Palm Oil” or “Palm Oil Free” campaign, first in Europe and now in Singapore, is potentially damaging for Malaysia, said National Association of Smallholders (Nash) of Malaysia.

“It has come to this part of the world,’’ Nash secretary-general Zulkifli Mohd Nazim said, showing Business Times photographs of infant milk cans taken at a supermarket in Singapore with highly visible “Palm Oil Free’’ signages on them.

He said the public is being misled into believing that saturated fats in palm oil are bad when in reality they are necessary in a balanced diet.

Since 13th December 2014, the European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation mandated specification of vegetable oils (i.e. palm, rapeseed, sunflower, soya) on the ingredient list.  

But food firms had also inserted “No Palm Oil” on the labels, which falsely insinuates palm oil is bad and needs to be avoided. 

In Europe, these discriminatory labels are being promoted by chocolate maker Galler and supermarket chain Delhaize. 

“Since there is no scientific proof that palm oil is bad for health, it is wrong for food manufacturers to go on using the ‘No Palm Oil’ labels,” Zulkifli said.

“These false allegations about palm nutrition must stop.  Such defamatory acts harm our farmers’ livelihoods. We must be more effective in broadcasting the fact that palm oil does not contain any artificial trans-fats and the planting of oil palms helps poverty alleviation,” he said.

Last week, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Muhamad Hanadzlah announced that the government is forming the National Export Council (NEC) to be chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. The NEC’s main task is to improve the country’s export chain, logistics and output. 

Zulkifli said tackling the smear campaign on oil palm is one of the ways to improve the country’s exports. “The oil palm is Malaysia’s economic security crop,” he said, in reference to the country’s annual US$20 billion (RM69.8 billion) palm oil exports which support some two million jobs and livelihoods along the sprawling value chain.

Indeed, Malaysia’s small farmers are a robust and diverse group. They are an integral part of the country’s cultural identity and their produce contributes significantly to the economy. Last year, Malaysia shipped out RM61.36 billion worth of palm oil to more than 150 countries.

Yum! Yum! dim sum

Dim sum generally consists of savoury minced meat, vegetables or seafood steamed or fried in a pastry wrap. These are accompanied by sweets like mango sago pomelo, egg tarts and custard. Dim sum is a culinary staple among the chinese.

Eating dim sum is usually a happy occasion, when family and friends gather to sip tea, sample a variety of dishes and chat away their worries. Age differences and generation gap usually melt away as everyone engage in lively banter.

Even in business, a dim sum get-together makes it friendly and casual. In Malaysia, there are many halal dim sum restaurants to choose from.

Lai Po Heen, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur from Sue Lynn Tiong on Vimeo.

In Cantonese, “dim sum” literally means “a light touch on the heart”, which is an ideal way to describe the small, delicious sweet or savoury dishes. But some say frequent indulgence of this "high saturated fats" affair can stop your heart.

Critics (I suspect they are dim sum haters ... ha ha ha) warn these "little eats" are so high in fat and salt that regular consumption could lead to obesity and severe cardiovascular illnesses.

I disagree. The real culprit of heart attacks and stroke are most likely brought on by accumulation of everyday stress, smoking, excessive alchohol, sedentary lifestyle and consumption of artificial trans fat.

The thing is ... all natural foods contain all three types of fats; saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. It is not possible to separate them. So, a food naturally high in saturated fat will also contain the other two.

These three kinds of fats, including saturated fats, are a necessity in our system. When we eat, these fats are digested in our stomach. As these fats get into our intestine and bloodstream, they transport fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K around the body.

Is eating dim sum bad for you? I don't think so. It's all about balance. 

Do refrain from over-eating or not eating properly.

Many who aspire to be slim like models featured in magazines and TV, sometimes skip meals. 

Those who succumb to quick fixes tend to abuse laxatives or appetite suppressants. 

Being too thin is linked to menstrual irregularity and osteoporosis in women.

It doesn't help that many working Malaysians spend much of their time desk-bound in the office. 

In the weekends, time is usually spent watching television or slumped on the sofa playing games on their handphones.

In balancing the amount of calories in the foods and drinks we consume with the amount of calories our bodies use, we need to exercise regularly.

Let's aim for a balanced diet of meat, fish, dairy and vegetables. There's no need to avoid certain kinds of food like dim sum. 

It is actually more practical to adopt a more balanced lifestyle, one that incorporates regular exercise that rids accumulated stress pressuring our heart and brain.

There's no need to deprive ourselves of our favourite foods. Get up from the chair and get moving. Do what you like ... be it walking in the park, dancing, football, badminton, cycling, golf or swimming :)

Convert 6P status for foreign workers

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign workers under the 6P programme who have to be sent home should be allowed to be re-employed as legal foreign workers, says the Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM).

MBAM president Matthew Tee said a large number and steady supply of foreign workers were needed to keep up with Malaysia’s construction industry, which had been experiencing consistent double digit growth since 2012.

“With the increase in projects, the association has to caution the Government that not all major projects can be delivered on time, especially with the current shortage of workers,” he said in a statement.

MBAM had appealed to the government to simplify the process of hiring foreign workers in order to reduce the manpower shortage. “The best will be if the skilled workers now under the 6P programme can be quickly re-employed as legal workers,” Tee said.

“The association appreciates the govern­ment’s decision to allow the 352,000 foreign workers under the 6P programme to remain in Malaysia for an extra year,” he said.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) concurred with MBAM in appealing to the government to convert the status of 6P foreign workers.

FMM chief executive officer Dr Yeoh Oon Tean said the status would help them reach their maximum employment period of 10 years. “Much time and investment has been spent in training these workers only for them to be sent back in three years.

As a result, employers have to submit fresh applications to get new workers in order to replace those who are sent back,” he said in a statement.

Yeoh said employers would also have to bear the repatriation costs for the 6P workers. “For these reasons, FMM supports the call made by the construction sector to allow these workers to continue working in Malaysia,” he added.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Association, which represents the bulk of oil palm plantation companies, has yet to issue a statement on this matter.

Over 150,000 fail to renew work permits

This is written by my colleagues Tharanya Arumugam and Rebecca Hani Romeli.

KUALA LUMPUR: MORE than 150,000 foreign workers under the 6P programme failed to renew their temporary work permits.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim said this would turn their status into illegal immigrants, which in turn, increase the number of undocumented immigrants in the country, which stood at five million. 

He said the department was preparing to nab and deport these illegals.

Mustafa said the department had registered a total of 521,734 foreign workers under the 6P programme since 2011.

Under the programme, the government agreed to extend the temporary work permits of 352,493 foreigners, whose employment would end in December 2015. 

He said the remaining 169,241 foreigners under the programme were now illegal immigrants as their temporary work permits had expired.

“Regardless whether foreign workers were under the 6P programme or not, they are illegals if their work permits have expired. If our officers catch them, the illegals will be arrested and necessary arrangements will be made for their deportation,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Deputy Immigration director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi said action would be taken against the 352,493 foreign workers if their work permits surpassed the new deadline of December next year. He urged the foreign workers to come forward and apply for their permit renewal.

Sakib, however, said there was no guarantee the temporary work permits would be renewed for those under the 6P programme. “The foreign workers who had applied for permit renewal will be screened in several aspects, such as health and criminal records. Those who failed their medical examinations and found to have committed criminal offences will not have their permits renewed. They will be deported.”

The government had, on Thursday, extended the employment of foreign workers under the 6P programme for another year, effective immediately.

Home Ministry’s acting secretary-general, Datuk Alwi Ibrahim, had said this reprieve was extended to 352,493 foreign workers with Temporary Social Visit Passes, which were still valid and that they were being employed legally.

“Many employers are still dependent on foreign workers under the 6P programme as they have failed to hire local workers. They are not willing to change to other operations that are not labour-oriented,” he said in a statement.

The 6P programme had legalised 521,734 illegal immigrants. They were allowed to work legally for three years (approved sectors) and two years (frozen and outside policy sectors).

Alwi said the decision was made after the government learnt that the loss of a large workforce would affect businesses and the economy. “The decision is meant for employers who have not repatriated their foreign workers after the expiry of the employment period.”

He said employers keen to continue employing foreign workers could apply for Temporary Social Visit Passes renewal at state Immigration offices.

Employers were required to make human resource planning so that their business operations would not be affected after the workers were sent home. “There will be no more extension. The government will not compromise with employers who fail to comply with policies.”

Work permit extended for 300,000 under 6P programme

This is written by my colleague Zafira Anwar.

PUTRAJAYA: The government has agreed to extend the temporary work permits for more than 300,000 foreign workers, registered under the 6P programme, for a year with immediate effect.

Home Ministry acting secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim said the decision came after the government had weighed what the impact of a sudden decrease in the workforce would have on the economy and to give time to employers to find replacement workers.

“The government realises that the loss of workforce in a large number will cause a sudden and major impact on businesses and the economy.

“Hence, the cabinet has agreed to the one-year extension, allowing employers who have yet to send their foreign workers to their home countries to prepare for their replacements.” 

He said this after attending a meeting between Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Indonesian Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri here yesterday.

He said the extension applied only to those who had their temporary work permits under the 6P programme and were legally employed. “This extension is effective immediately."

Any employer who intends to continue employing foreign workers during the extension period may apply for the renewal of the temporary work permit at Immigration offices nationwide.” Alwi reminded employers to send workers back to their countries at the end of next year.

He said based on the Immigration Department’s records, 352,493 foreign workers, registered under the 6P programme, would complete their term as stipulated in the programme at the end of this year or next month.

On Monday, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, in appealing to the government to extend the temporary work permits, had cautioned that failure to do so would lead to the recruitment of unskilled workers to replace them.

This, Shamsuddin said, would cause severe manpower shortages in key industries and would affect the country’s economic growth.

He was also quoted in a report on Wednesday as saying that employers might need to spend RM2.5 billion to recruit new foreign workers to replace those sent home under the 6P programme. 

In August 2011, the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers implemented the 6P programme to reduce the number of immigrants who entered the country illegally or who had overstayed their work permits.

Under the Registration, Legalisation, Amnesty, Supervision, Enforcement and Deportation programme (abbreviated in Bahasa Malaysia to 6P), illegal foreign workers were required to register with the Home Ministry and have their fingerprints recorded in a biometric system.

Under the 6P programme, foreigners in the service sector were issued temporary work visiting passes lasting two years, while those working in manufacturing, construction and plantations received three years.

The cabinet’s decision for the extension came two days after the government insisted that foreign workers must return to their home countries next month and observe the compulsory six-month cooling-off period before returning to Malaysia.

Immigration Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi was quoted as saying that those with temporary work visit passes under the 6P programme must honour the understanding agreed upon in 2011.

He also said employers should have taken proactive measures to prepare for the “exodus” of their workers, as they were aware of the situation since 2011.

Sakib said the government did not want the foreigners to remain in Malaysia continuously for more than five years, as they could then request for permanent resident status.

‘Locals not willing to do 3D jobs’

PUTRAJAYA: The majority of locals are not interested in working in an environment that is either dirty, difficult or dangerous, forcing employers to hire foreign workers instead.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said because of this, such jobs, also known as the three Ds (3Ds), were taken up by foreigners.

“The most locals will work in these ‘3D industries’ is three months. Some work for a month, a week or even a day (before quitting). I am not siding with the foreigners, but this is the truth,” he said after receiving a courtesy call from Indonesian Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri at his office here yesterday.

Malaysia's Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi met up with Indonesian Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri at Putrajaya yesterday.
Also present at the bilateral meeting yesterday was Home Ministry’s acting secretary-general Datuk Alwi Ibrahim.

Zahid said employers could not be entirely blamed for hiring foreigners, as locals were reluctant to work in “3D industries”.

“Sometimes, I sympathise with the employers for facing difficulties in securing local workers,” he said, adding that although priority for employment must be given to locals, most employers did not have much choice, and were forced to hire foreigners.

However, said Zahid, employers must adhere to the ministry’s guidelines, failing which would result in the workforce being flooded with illegal foreign workers brought in by rogue agents.

“These irresponsible agents would charge employers extra, claiming that it was for obtaining the required documents. (However), these rogue agents did not register with the authorities. This is why there are still a lot of illegal foreign workers,” he said, adding that Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s efforts, through his Manpower Ministry to legalise its workers here, must be commended.

On a separate matter, Zahid said the ministry was in the midst of getting banks from both nations to work together to allow Indonesian workers to open up accounts using I-cards to prevent them from being cheated out of their salaries by their employers.

“This is to ensure that the workers’ welfare is taken care of. They would have proof whether their employers had paid their monthly salary. Having a bank account will also expedite remittance, as they can just wire the money online,” said Zahid.

With Indonesians making up close to 40 per cent of foreigners working in the country, Zahid said there was a need for the country to continue using foreign labour. “The plantation, construction and service sectors may collapse if they do not have foreign workers.”

"I was so excited, I could not sleep."

It's not everyday a business journalist gets invited to restaurant openings. So, when I was assigned to cover the opening of the first outlet of the world's famous dim sum restaurateur Tim Ho Wan in Malaysia, I grinned ear-to-ear. 

In Cantonese, Tim Ho Wan literally means “add good luck.” I'm feeling lucky already.

There are 25 items in Tim Ho Wan's menu. Journalists were presented with must-try classics like prawn dumplings (har gau in Cantonese), steamed beef balls and steamed rice rolls (cheung fun in Cantonese) — all of which were sampled along with the famed baked BBQ pork bun, sticky rice in lotus leaf and fried bean curd sheet roll with prawns.

Another journalist from Malaysia's chinese language newspaper Sin Chew Jit Poh sat next to me. He noted Tim Ho Wan offers what one can expect dim sum in its purest form to be  succulent prawns, silky smooth noodle skins, tender and textured beef.

He confessed to me. "I was so excited, I could not sleep last night when my editor assigned me to cover Tim Ho Wan." I stared at him wide-eyed and thought to myself, "Eee ... this guy is so over-the-top."

He instructed me to try the baked BBQ pork bun. I obliged, obediently. 

One bite into the masterfully crafted golden-skinned pork bun, I realised what he meant. It was absolutely lip-smacking delicious. Mmmm

“Making dim sum isn’t easy," Tim Ho Wan founder Chef Mak Kwai Pui reportedly said. 

“There are many factors that can influence the taste. Take the BBQ pork buns - even the weather can affect the outcome,” said the chef who has mastered the art of dim sum for more than 35 years. He picked up the craft at the tender age of 15.

He explained how higher external temperatures can hasten the process of fermentation. So, one must be vigilant of sunny weather causing the baked buns to turn sour.

The finer points of making dim sum take years to learn. Each piece of dim sum is about handiwork - thick is easy, but thin is exact. "You really have to have an eye for this sort of thing.”

Chef Mak is skilled in the different areas of dim sum - frying, steaming, creating the fillings, making dough wrappings for dumplings, and making rice noodle rolls. “I would master one thing,” he recalled, “and then I’d have start back at the bottom to learn the next thing.”

“My own standards are; you cannot slack, it has to be neat and tidy, have the correct shape, and you can’t leave sloppy dough that stick on bamboo containers,” he told reporters.

In recent years, Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan has ventured overseas to Singapore, Taipei, Hanoi, Manila and now — Kuala Lumpur. 

Kuala Lumpur stock exchange-listed Texchem Resources Bhd signed a franchise agreement in July 2014 with Tim Ho Wan Pte Ltd. Texchem owns 51 per cent of Dimsum Delight Sdn Bhd, the company that operates Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Malaysia. The remaining 49 per cent is with a Malaysian company owned by Angel Chong and Kelvin Khoo.

Dim sum lovers can take delight as the selections are affordable, with prices ranging from RM7.80 to RM12.80, and the portions are hearty. Although Tim Ho Wan is non-halal, most of its dim sum offerings are prepared with palm oil.

As the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurateur, Tim Ho Wan is known for its no frills and no reservations concept. 

Much of Tim Ho Wan's allure is credited to ingredients freshly prepared upon every order. That's why there is always a long queue of patient patrons waiting to tuck-in their favourite dim sum.

"Employers should have been prepared"

KUALA LUMPUR: MORE than 500,000 foreign workers temporarily legalised under the 6P programme must return to their home countries next month and observe the compulsory 6-month cooling-off period before they can return to Malaysia.

Adopting a firm stance on the issue, the government has chided employers for not taking proactive measures to prepare for the “exodus”, despite being aware of the situation since 2011.

Immigration Department deputy director-general (operations) Datuk Sakib Kusmi said those with temporary work visit passes under the temporary Registration, Legalisation, Amnesty, Supervision, Enforcement and Deportation programme (abbreviated in Bahasa Malaysia to 6P) must honour the understanding agreed upon in 2011.

Under the 6P programme, illegal foreign workers in food and beverage sector were issued temporary work visiting passes lasting two years, while those working in manufacturing, construction and plantations received three years.

If the foreigners did not leave by January 2015, they would be deemed as having overstayed and could be arrested under Section 15(1)C of the Immigration Act.

“We are aware that there are some who are still living here with expired documents, but our policy is clear. If caught, they will be brought to court and jailed or be forced to pay a compound,” he said.

After paying the compound or completing their jail time, they would be held at the Immigration depot before they were put on a flight back to their home country.

Sakib said they could return to Malaysia for work after observing the cooling-off period of between six months and a year.

“The government believes it is actually better for the foreign workers to undergo the cooling-off period before returning. Employers should not be afraid of this because this is not something new, they already knew this beforehand,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the government did not want the foreigners to remain in Malaysia continuously for more than five years, as they could then request for permanent resident status, with all the benefits provided to citizens.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said employers are aware they need to send these foreign workers back to their home countries after their temporary work visit passes expired.

“Many employers had legalised their illegal workers during the 6P programme and were given temporary work visit passes in 2011. They already knew their workers would need to be sent home within three years after the agreement," the deputy minister said, adding the government is standing its ground on this policy.

The 6P Programme, implemented in August 2011 by the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers, is aimed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the country or those overstaying their work permits.

Yesterday, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan cautioned that failure to extend the foreigners’ work permits would lead to the recruitment of unskilled workers to replace them, causing discontinuity and avoidable delay in economic activities in key industries. 


KUALA LUMPUR: Extending the work permits of foreign workers beyond the 6P programme deadline would only lead to more problems, said Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs).

Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda disagreed with extending foreign workers' permits as it would be counter-productive in efforts to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign workers.

“I hope employers and industry leaders will understand this effort, as this concerns the future of our nation. 

"With foreign workers taking over many jobs in all economic sectors, they would make it difficult for locals to get better-paid positions in future.”

Azih was commenting on the New Straits Times’ front-page article yesterday, which reported that around 500,000 foreign workers would have to leave Malaysia when their work permits expire in January 2015, as part of the 6P programme.

The Malaysian Employers’ Federation cautioned the impending loss of these workers would cause severe manpower shortage and disruption in key economic activity flow, thus resulting in businesses to become less competitive.

Malayan Agricultural Producers Association executive director Mohamad Audong said the agriculture and plantation sector needed foreign labour, failing which, companies in the sector would ground to a halt.

Locals, he said, were not interested in working in the sector. This had led to the reliance on foreigners to handle difficult tasks, such as harvesting and processing.

“If the government were to send back these foreign workers, it would cause employers to go one step back by hiring new foreign employees to fill the vacancies. These new employees will require training. The cost of hiring new people and training them will be very costly.”

“The foreign workers are already here. The government could just issue them new documentation to enable them to continue to work. Let them work and monitor them from time to time.”

Asked about the possibility of re-hiring these batch of foreign workers once they complete the mandatory six month cooling-off period in their respective home countries, Cuepacs' Azih said employers would not be able to wait that long.

He said companies in the agriculture sector were mostly government-linked companies and would not take a chance by waiting for the cooling-off period to end, as the workers could be snapped up by other companies once they return to their home countries.

Gloomy outlook as 6P foreign workers go home

PETALING JAYA: ECONOMIC growth for 2015 could be affected when the estimated 500,000 foreign workers registered under the 6P programme return to their countries next month.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, in painting a bleak picture, yesterday said failure to extend the work permits of these foreigners and allow them to continue working in the country would lead to the recruitment of unskilled workers to replace them.

In August 2011, the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers implemented the 6P programme to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their work permits.

Under the Registration, Legalisation, Amnesty, Supervision, Enforcement and Deportation programme (abbreviated in Bahasa Malaysia to 6P), illegal foreign workers were required to register with the Home Ministry and had their fingerprints recorded in a biometric system.

After the registration, the foreign workers were issued work permits until January next year and allowed to return to their jobs.

Shamsuddin said it took between six and nine months to bring in new foreign workers, and employers would have to spend more money to retrain them.

“This will affect next year’s economic growth if this matter is not handled in a positive and decisive manner,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said uncertainty over the matter or if the government refused renew their permits could result in a large number of foreign workers working illegally.

Those who do not leave Malaysia by January 2015 will become illegal. According to official data, 2.5 million foreign workers are registered with the government. 

“From that total, an estimated 500,000 are registered under the 6P programme, which expires in early 2015. These workers are in the manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture, and the food and beverage sectors.”

Shamsuddin said a delay in renewing the work permits could cause a lot of disruption to businesses, as time was money. “Construction projects that are not delivered on time will face heavy penalties and disruption in their financing.” 

Shamsuddin added that the country’s palm oil output and export earnings in the coming year would be affected if there were not enough foreign workers to harvest oil palm fruits.

He said vegetable prices could also see a spike if farm owners could not renew their foreign workers’ permits on time.

Two days ago, Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz announced that the economy was likely to remain on a “steady growth path”, at between 5.5 per cent and 6 per cent this year, driven by resilient domestic demand.

She also forecast that next year, the Malaysian economy was likely to expand between five and six per cent.

FGV plans commodity trade tie-up in China

KUALA LUMPUR: FELDA Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) is set to mark a new foray into China by collaborating with Shenzhen Agricultural Products Co Ltd (SZAP), an agri-business trading company.

The partnership will jointly explore opportunities in various commodities, including rubber and palm oil, said FGV group president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah.

Shenzen-based SZAP specialises in the business of e-commerce and supply chain services in agricultural products.

“As the world’s largest trading powerhouse, China continues to be a destination market for FGV,” Mohd Emir said in a statement yesterday. “We look forward to working with SZAP to provide greater accessibility of our products to consumers in China amid growing demand,” he added.

In enhancing its downstream activities, FGV had previously formed partnerships to explore business operations in China. “Through our subsidiary, Felda Global Ventures Biotechnologies Sdn Bhd, we delivered shipments of palm methyl ester to Nansha Port in Guangzhou in response to China’s growing interest in renewable energy.

“With the many available opportunities, we look forward to collaborate further with business partners keen on working with us,” Mohd Emir added.

FGV noted that its business expansion into China is in line with Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent visit to the country. It is aimed at enhancing Malaysia-China ties and the two-way trade target of US$160 billion (or RM528 billion) by 2017.

The strategic move is part of FGV’s long-term growth plans  towards becoming as one of the leading global agri-business companies by 2020, Mohd Emir said.

Australia's No.1 rapeseed client is the EU

This is written by Peter Elliot of Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre four months ago. It can be sourced from

Australia's No.1 rapeseed client is the EU
15 Aug 2014

The European Union growing biodiesel market, in recent years, has given a boost to Australia’s canola exports. The EU-28 buys about 1.35 million tonnes of canola per annum, making up 62 per cent of Australia’s 2.12 million tonnes total annual exports.

Where does Australian canola mainly go to?

The bulk of Australia’s canola exports to Europe go into the major ports of Rotterdam (in the Netherlands), Hamburg (in Germany) and Gent (in Belgium).  However occasionally Australian canola is subsequently loaded on smaller vessels and shipped to customers in countries such as Finland, who can only take small quantities at one time or to ports which are unable to be serviced by large (30,000-60,000t) vessels.

Who are the main buyers? 
The main buyers of Australian canola in Europe are ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), Cargill, Glencore and Saipol/Diester.

What is Australian canola used for in Europe?
About 70 per cent of the canola demand in Europe is for biodiesel, with the remainder is used for food purposes mainly cooking oil.

Why has demand for Australian canola in Europe grown so strongly in the past five years?
Since 2009, the EU government implemented the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which set targets and subsidies for plant-based fuel. The subsidy has made it competitive for Australia to produce biodiesel that meets the requirements of the RED.

The EU government requires growers to be accredited at First Hand Gathering Point by trading houses in Australia like Cargill, Glencore, CBH Group or Graincorp. Cargo surveyor SGS will then audit the rapeseed farming operation to ensure RED's criteria are complied with.  

Inter-cropping helps biodiversity conservation

KUALA LUMPUR: Besides generating income for farmers, the inter-cropping of vegetables and herbs between rows of newly-planted oil palms, contributes to biodiversity conservation.

“Inter-cropping cash crops with oil palms and rubber can diversify food nutrition for humans and enhance soil fertility for crop health,” said Crops For the Future (CFF) research centre theme leader, Professor Soh Aik Chin, on the sidelines of an inter-cropping seminar, here, recently. 

There is little awareness that current human nutrition depends on a very limited number of crops. He also noted while some literature exists on companion planting, there is scarce data on using the functional diversity of plants in an inter-cropping system. 

“We want to find out the ideal inter-cropping formula that would improve yields of the main crop and contribute to biodiversity in the plantation system at the same time,” Soh said.

CFF is an international body dedicated to neglected and underutilised crops. It is a joint venture hosted in Malaysia by the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, and the Malaysian government.

“Research literature have shown that biodiversity in a natural ecosystem increases total plant productivity,” Walker said. “The combined species use the resources available to them in a more efficient way by avoiding intra-species competition. We want to pick vegetables and herbs that are suitable." 

"We want to choose crops that won’t compete against each other. In the interest of nutrition security, we want to find out combinations that will  bring about a multitude of symbiotic benefits,” she said. 

As of now, legumes are extensively planted at oil palm estates for a dual role of preventing soil erosion and as nitrogen fixers. Flowering plants such as Turnera subulata, Cassia  cobanensis and Antigonon leptopus are also planted to play host to beneficial pollination insects. 

The breeding of barn owls are also encouraged at the estates as they are natural predators of rats and snakes.

Ong said research on various inter-cropping combinations are needed to see how plants and trees interact and to determine what happens in the soil.

This sustainable agriculture initiative is based on the balanced needs of people, planet and profits. “We’re looking into the most sustainable cropping system  to help ease poverty by enhancing food security through more optimum land management and soil conservation,” he said.