KUALA LUMPUR: The natural rubber and rubber-based products were the ‘stars’ in 2017, with export up 30.2% to RM32.3bil, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.
He said the other commodities, such as palm oil, also performed reasonable well, increasing by 14.6 % to RM77.8 bil.
“The palm oil export has surpassed our initial target of RM70 bil last year and for 2018, we are confident of achieving over RM80 bil,” he told Bernama.
The total export earnings of commodity products amounted to RM140.3bil, or 15% of Malaysia’s total merchandise export, 14.4% higher than RM122.6 bil in 2016.
Mah said although the palm oil and palm-based products recorded a positive number, only 10% of the trees has been utilised.
“We are going into more value-added products, including the oleochemical products and pharmaceuticals, with the aim to increase the palm oil consumption.
“The commodity has got big future in the country and we are seriously looking into it,” he said, adding that currently there were companies that were ready to exploit the biomass industry in Malaysia.
In his commentary in one of the local newspapers last month, Mah said the fronds, trunks, empty fruit bunches and palm kernel shell were biomass from palm oil output that most Malaysians were unfamiliar with.
Hence, many were also unaware of the vast opportunities to turn palm biomass into wealth, he said.
The ministry welcomed industrial players who would put big money into research and development in the field, he said.
Yesterday, the minister received a visit from British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Vicki Treadell, where both discussed the proposed European Union (EU) Parliament’s move to remove palm oil from biofuels mix by 2021.
They also talked about the future cooperation between Malaysia and the UK, especially in exploring the development of palm oil-based high value-added downstream products to create new economic opportunities.
Mah is scheduled to lead a Malaysian delegation to Europe for the Malaysia-EU Palm Oil Consultation starting Saturday.
The mission aims to negotiate with members of the tripartite consultation from influential countries to seek their support and state Malaysia’s firm stand against the injustice done to the palm industry.
Besides several EU commissioners and policymakers, the delegation will also meet government representatives of Germany, UK, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Poland.