Malaysia’s agriculture surpasses mining products

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by TMR FILE 

MALAYSIA’S agriculture sector ranked second in terms of trade, surpassing mining products in 2020, despite the decline in its relative contribution to the Malaysian economy and trade over the years.

Malaysia Trade Statistics Review 2021 conducted by the Department of Statistics Malaysia also revealed that palm oil has dominated Malaysia’s trade for the agriculture sector since 1990.

Last year, it contributed 25.8% and 34.3%, respectively, to world palm oil production and exports.

China, India and the European Union (EU) were Malaysia’s main export destinations for palm oil.

“Although the relative contribution of the agriculture sector to the Malaysian economy and trade is in this regard, efforts in the field of research need to be increased to develop sustainable technology to improve the production and quality of agro-based products, thereby meeting the needs of the people and world market demand,” chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said in a statement yesterday.

“Over the past decades, the economy of Malaysia experienced transformation from agriculture and commodity-base to a diversified economy.

“Agriculture was once the mainstay of the Malaysia economy on the back of rubber commodity, but in the 1980s, manufacturing was emerging as a leading sector to achieve the aims of the New Economic Policy, which than followed by the rise of service-based economy in the 1990s in line with national development plan,” he explained.

The contribution of agricultural products to Malaysia’s total trade in 1990 was 13.7% which fell to 6.8% last year where its main exports from the sector were oil, sawlog, sawn timber and mouldings, and natural rubber.

Malaysia used to be the world’s top natural rubber producer back in the 1930s but it shrank to only RM3.3 billion in 2020 which comprises 0.3% of the total exports.

However, Mohd Uzir said Malaysia has benefitted from the pandemic as it appeared to be the world’s leading producer of rubber gloves in 2020 with exports amounting to RM35.9 billion, increasing 104.5% year-on-year and consequently contributing to the increase in natural rubber imports.

On the other hand, Malaysia’s top imports were cereals, natural rubber and palm oil while the main agricultural export destinations were China, EU and India.

Malaysia mostly imported agricultural products from Indonesia, China and Thailand.

“Malaysia also imports 30% to 40% of the country’s rice needs. Malaysia imported a total of RM2.5 billion of rice in 2020, mainly from Vietnam, India and Pakistan,” he added.

Mohd Uzir is positive that the agriculture sector remains significant being a major supplier of food and raw materials for resource-based industries despite the declining trend from year to year.