School syllabus may soon include palm oil chapters

PUTRAJAYA: The government may introduce palm oil chapters in the secondary school syllabus as part of initiatives to raise better awareness on commodities as well as to build up a more relevant talent pool for Malaysia’s economy.

"At the recent National Science Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib, I proposed that our children should get to know of the immense contribution of palm oil to our economy while in school. The response among Cabinet ministers was encouraging," said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

As Malaysia marks its 100th year of commercial oil palm planting, Mah noted that the value chain of this oil crop will continue to significantly contribute to the country's economy.

He noted that currently, many school children in Malaysia are not aware of the versatility of palm oil as the world’s most heat stable cooking oil and bakery fat nor do they know that palm kernel oil is the main ingredient in the soap, shampoo and shaving cream.

"It's time our school children are taught the facts and figures about oil palm planting and palm oil nutrition. This is timely, especially when we see so many wrong allegations put out online. Our children deserve to know the truth," he told NST Business in an interview.

"I would like to correct the wrong perception that the palm oil industry is confined to farmers and that career prospects revolve around dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks," Mah said.

“Today, Malaysia's sprawling palm oil industry is employing more talents,” he said.

Bankers, insurance companies, freight forwarders, cargo surveyors, scientists and engineers are also part of the palm oil supply chain.

The sector entails production of margarine, cooking oil, oleochemicals, transport and storage of palm oil at the ports, palm oil futures trading at brokerages, design and building of refineries and biodiesel plants, animal feeds, vitamin E extraction and even the development of nutrient-enriched cosmetics.

For more than a decade, Malaysia has been the world's biggest Islamic bond market and palm oil has its role in Islamic financing. Since 2010, stock exchange regulator Bursa Malaysia Bhd has set up Bursa Suq Al-Sila for banks to buy and sell crude palm oil futures to facilitate Islamic finance.

The transactions on Bursa Suq Al-Sila involves an Islamic bank buying crude palm oil from the spot market and then sells it to the borrower. The borrower then sells the crude palm oil to a third party in the spot market for cash, using the bank as its agent, thus securing the financing.

"I think it's crucial for Malaysia embark on brain gain initiatives to produce relevant professionals and talents as we embrace a knowledge-based economy," Mah said.

"As our children gain a better insight into the scientific and commercial aspects of the palm oil industry while at school, investors pouring in more money into downstream businesses now would have a higher chance of employing and benefiting from a good pool of talents," he added.






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