B20 implementation to be looked at holistically

pic by BERNAMA

THE government plans to increase the demand for palm oil as much as 500,000 tonnes per year, which would lead to the implementation of biodiesel B20 (a blend of 20% palm oil and 80% fossil fuel) at the end of 2020.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S Piarapakaran said the use of biodiesel needs to be looked at holistically.

“The government needs to ensure that food and fuel crisis do not arise. Increasing palm oil usage into non-edible and lucrative sectors like fuel will boost crude palm oil demand, but we need to learn from Brazil on this aspect, like ethanol from sugar cane,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He added that on increasing biodiesel blend percentage into diesel, the government must ensure that it does not affect vehicle engine warranties.

“Warranty comes with a specific set of fuel quality and type, there should be a detailed policy set on this issue.

“How does the government intend to control a possible hike in crude palm oil price and its impact to edible products which link to costs of living?” he said. Piarapakaran added that saving the palm oil sector’s profit percentage should not be at the expense of living costs.

“This is what it means by food or fuel crisis,” he said.

In Budget 2020, the government has allocated RM27 million to support the efforts of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board in expanding the international palm oil market and addressing the anti-palm oil campaign by the European Union and the US.

It has also launched a loan fund for oil palm replanting worth RM550 million for smallholders without collateral at a 2% interest rate per year.

The loan term is 12 years, including a four-year moratorium on repayment.

The replanting will be carried out using the latest techniques and in compliance with the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil standards to ensure better productivity and marketability.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (MoA) has received an allocation of RM4.9 billion, where RM3.5 billion is for operations and RM1.4 billion for development.

According to the MoA, the allocation increased by 10.9% from last year, with focus points will include allowance and schemes for farmers and fishermen, as well as modernisation to increase their productivity.

Badan Bertindak Selamatkan Industri Padi Beras (Padi Rescue) secretary and coordinator Nurfitri Amir Muhammad said while the increase in allocation is a normal annual occurrence, the real issue remains.

“Some of the issues that we face (at Padi Rescue) include the late arrival of fertilisers and the seeds cannot be found easily in the market, especially subsidised seeds.

“There are some presumptions that were made such as the distributors’ trick to increase their prices and sell these materials in the black market, forcing farmers to buy anyway since it’s already the planting season, but at a higher price,” he told TMR.

He added that Padi Rescue is grateful for the move to increase workers’ allowance as it was cut in Budget 2019.

“Previously, the people involved in agriculture works made noise about this, and we are glad that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng noticed,” he said.

Under the paddy sector, RM855 million has been allocated including for “Skim Baja Padi Kerajaan Persekutuan” and “Skim Insentif Pengeluaran Padi”, the continuation of paddy subsidy and RM30 million to produce pulut paddy in Langkawi, Kedah.

In addition, RM152 million has been allocated for fishermen, including the raise of fishermen living cost allowance from RM200 to RM250.

Some RM43 million was allocated for the development of better plant variants for the Farming Industry 4.0, while RM150 million has been channelled to encourage plant integration programmes for chilli, pineapple, coconut, watermelon and bamboo.

MoA said the allocations for 2020 showed that the nation’s agrofood sector is receiving more attention from the government and will be developed further to ensure food supply.

“In line with the 2030 Shared Prosperity Vision, the 2020 budget for MoA should help increase the income of farmers, livestock and fishermen.

“It also serves as a catalyst for the 12th Malaysia Plan and Policy National Agenda 2.0,” the ministry said.