LOS ANGELES: Malaysia’s palm oil exports to the US have the potential to double in five years as the country continues to import vegetable oils and fats to supplement local demand despite being a major producer of vegetable oils.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said Malaysia’s exports of palm oil to the US increased 162 per cent from 477,899 tonnes in 2009 to 1.25 million tonnes last year.
He pointed out that the US imported 4.3 million tonnes of oils and fats last year with palm oil accounting for 28 per cent of the total.
“This aptly reflects the confidence of consumers in America regarding the nutritional benefits of palm oil,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the Global Oils and Fats Forum (GOFF) USA 2015 here on Thursday morning.
Uggah said Malaysia is now working closely with local and international research institutions to carry out scientific studies on the benefits of palm oil.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is currently working with Ohio State University Medical Centre, Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Texas and Wayne State University.
These studies focus on the use of tocotrienols, the vitamin E found in palm oil, in the prevention of cancer and stroke as well as the fight against liver and kidney diseases, he said.
Uggah expressed optimism that with these studies and other efforts, the issues that Malaysia faced in the 1980s when certain quarters questioned the nutritional benefits of palm oil amid a campaign against palm would not recur.
“We fought a long and bitter battle,” he said.
He said the government has learned that such a situation arose due to the misunderstanding on the part of consumers and lack of scientific evidence from experts.
In another development, Uggah said that by 2020 all smallholders in Malaysia, comprising 40 per cent of the country’s oil palm growers, will be certified by MSPO, the government-led certification scheme.
The government has set up the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council, an independent governing body to spearhead the MSPO and ensure its successful implementation.
The MSPO aims to ensure the production of palm oil in a sustainable manner as the planting of oil palm has been incorrectly associated with the reduction of rainforests, loss of biodiversity and release of greenhouse gases, Uggah said.
“The industry takes cognisance of environmental expectations and manages its operations accordingly.
“Producer and consumer countries working together can ensure a sustainable and equitable system of production and compensation when imposing sustainability requirements,” he said.
Uggah said he believes the introduction of MSPO and the business-to-business initiative the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) would be good for the industry.
He said the government is aware that it is difficult and costly for smallholders to be RSPO-certified although the market needs their products to be certified.
Uggah is in the US leading a two-day palm oil promotion mission from Oct 14.
His delegation comprises representatives from the ministry, MPOB, Malaysian Palm Oil Council and the private sector aimed at strengthening palm oil exports to the US and promoting business linkages between the private sector in Malaysia and the US.
The two-day GOFF event is jointly organised by MPOB and MPOC.