Mah: PM’s visit will benefit over a million smallholders

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians should regard the Prime Minister’s visit to China positively and not assume Malaysia gave the upper hand to one of the world’s largest economies.

Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit, which was meant to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries, would also mean a lot to Malaysia’s over one million commodity smallholders.

“It is not always about the big projects. He is trying to convince China to import more palm oil from Malaysia and this secures the wellbeing of 550,000 oil palm smallholders.

“An increase in demand will mean an increase in commodity prices and better income for the smallholders,” Mah said on the sidelines of Gerakan’s Deepavali open house here.

He said there were more than one million commodity smallholders in Malaysia, including over 440,000 and some 60,000 in the rubber and pepper industries.

“I’m thankful the Prime Minister is helping us ensure the demand for our palm oil increases to further benefit the smallholders. I am also going to India and Iran to expand the market for our commodities,” he said.

He said China was the second largest importer of commodities such as palm oil, rubber and wood in 2015, valued at over RM15bil.

However, Mah, who is also Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, noted that Malaysia’s palm oil industry had been through some challenges – exports to China dipped 42% from 1.8 million tonnes between January and August 2015 to 1.05 million tonnes in the same period this year.

He attributed the dip to negative reports about the impact of palm oil production on the environment and health.

Mah said efforts had been taken to ensure Malaysian palm oil was produced in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner to win back importers.

“China is also overcoming its environmental problems and we are working hard to obtain China’s green labelling which certifies our palm oil is derived from sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods,” he said, adding that Malaysia was also trying to export B5 and B10 biodiesel to China.

Additionally, the ministry is increasing efforts to get oil palm companies and smallholders to apply for the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification.

“We understand it takes time and money but think of it is an investment. We will be making a decision next year on whether to make it compulsory for the industry.”

Mah added that he would like Chinese companies to look to Malaysia to build refineries to process their downstream products.

Besides palm oil, Mah said China was also Malaysia’s biggest importer of natural rubber, valued at RM2bil last year.

Commenting on Gerakan’s preparations for the next general election, he said the party was ready and would contest 45 parliamentary and state seats.

Of those, Mah said Gerakan would be contesting 13 state seats and four parliamentary seats in Penang.

“We lost in 2008 and 2013 but we are confident of winning the next.

“I’m sure Penang voters will give us a chance as they want a check and balance in the State Assembly,” he said.





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