Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Association seeks ministry’s help on pressing issues

Wednesday 8th April, The Star, Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) is seeking the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry’s assistance to help resolve some oil palm planters’ pressing issues on foreign labour, the biodiesel programme, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) fund and replanting scheme.

Nine issues were raised at the dialogue session between MPOA members and Minister Datuk Peter Chin held prior to the launching of MPOA’s book, Sustainable Production of Palm Oil – A Malaysian Perspective, yesterday.

The plantation industry captains present included Sime Darby Bhd executive vice-president of plantation and agribusiness division Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, who is also MPOA chairman, United Plantations Bhd vice-chairman Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen, IOI Corp Bhd executive director Datuk Lee Yeow Chor, Tradewinds Plantation Bhd chief executive officer Chan Seng Fatt and Malaysian Estate Owners Association president Boon Weng Siew.

Chin told reporters that MPOA members needed the support of foreign workers, especially for the upstream activities in the oil palm estates.

Of the 502,300 total employment in the plantation sector currently, over 50% or 282,500 are foreign workers.

On the biodiesel programme, MPOA’s concerns are that using the palm oil price stabilisation fund collected by Malaysian Palm Oil Board to subsidise biodiesel is not a long-term proposition.

”As you know, biodiesel is more expensive than fossil fuel. At today’s palm oil price a tonne, there is a difference of over US$100 between fossil fuel and palm methyl esther,” Chin said.

“The ministry intends to talk with the Treasury to resolve this issue,” he said.

As for the RSPO fund, he said a consultant company would be set up to work with MPOA and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board to assist smallholders in meeting the RSPO sustainability standards and certification.

Meanwhile, Azhar said he expected overall demand for palm oil to be consistent and stable this year.

“We are happy with crude palm oil (CPO) currently trading at RM2,200 per tonne, which is really a good price.

“Despite the lower CPO price projections at the recent palm oil conference, I believe the demand and supply factors are going to prevail,” he said.

While there was market talk of defaults and credit issues, Azhar believed the situation was not overwhelming.