Malaysia, US to expand agri-commodity trade


Malaysia aims to increase agri-commodity trade with the US, said Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

He said both countries share a strong bond in the agri-commodity trade, which totals up to RM14.11 billion in 2016.

Mah said this following a recent courtesy call from US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir and delegates from the US Embassy.

“The meeting is a great milestone in forging a much closer relationship between the two countries towards a better understanding of the complexity and scale of palm oil, rubber and timber-related issues,” Mah said in a statement yesterday.

It was the first meeting between the ministry officials and their US Embassy counterparts since Mah assumed office at the end of June 2016. The meeting was also attended by MPIC secretary general Datuk K Yogeesvaran.

He said the meeting also discussed the issue of forced labour and child labour in the industry.

Since 2009, the Malaysian palm oil industry has been listed in the Department of Labour’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour.

“The country’s palm oil industries recognised, and have taken efforts to ensure the welfare of workers is taken care of.

“The Cabinet has also mandated in March for MPIC to undertake a comprehensive survey on the labour situation in Malaysian palm oil plantations using the International Labour Organisation (ILO)approach,” Mah said.

To date, ILO has conducted a fact-finding activity from Sept 13-15, and a multi-stakeholder workshop on Sept 27-28 as part of their preliminary preparation.

In relation to this, Mah stressed that protecting the welfare of workers is one of the requirements under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme, which has been implemented since 2015.

The approach will be made mandatory nationwide by the end of 2019.

As of July 2017, a total of 245,079ha of plantations have been certified under the MSPO certification scheme, which include 7,570ha of oil palm acreage planted by smallholders.

As it is, the export value of agri-commodities grew 14.8% to RM8.75 billion for the period of January to July 2017, compared to RM7.6 billion during the same period last year.

The exports were largely rubber products valued at RM3.8 billion, followed by palm oil and palm-based products at RM2.5 billion, and timber and timber products valued at RM2.1 billion.