THE Primary Industries Ministry has allayed fears about the advisory by a leading Indian trade body urging its members against buying Malaysian palm oil, maintaining that it will not put a dent on Malaysia’s edible oil industry.
Primary Industries deputy minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin’s assurance is based on the economic diplomacy approach adopted by the ministry in resolving the issue, as well as the eight-fold increase in Malaysia’s palm oil exports to India this year.
He said India’s purchase of palm oil from Malaysia had significantly gone up by 1.6 million tonnes todate this year, compared with 250,000 tonnes in the same period last year.
“This is because of the superior quality of palm oil produced in Malaysia and the difference in tax levied on Malaysian edible oil products.
Under the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (MICECA) signed and enforced in 2011, India’s tax on Malaysia’s palm oil entering its shores is 5 per cent lower than the tax imposed on Indonesia’s produce.
“There is nothing to worry about for Malaysian and Indian companies to continue trading, especially in the edible oil industry,” he said during his visit to the New Straits Times Press headquarters here yesterday.
He was briefed on the operation of the New Straits Times (NST) and its sister publication, Berita Harian (BH) by NST group editor Rashid Yusof and BH group editor Khaidir A. Majid.
Shamsul Iskandar confirmed that the government had yet to receive an official notification from the government of India on the advisory issued by India’s Solvent Extractors’ Association (ISEA).
ISEA president Atul Chaturvedi had reportedly advised its 850 members not to buy palm oil from Malaysia to protest against Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Jammu and Kashmir conflict at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.
“The advisory is the response by palm oil players in India on matters concerning foreign affairs, which does not represent the stance of the Indian government.
“On our part, we are not working in silos. We are working with the Foreign Ministry to resolve this issue.
“There was a meeting between our Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar recently in Azerbaijan, during which Malaysia raised several issues, including matters related to the palm oil industry,” Shamsul Iskandar said.
India relies heavily on cooking oil imports because it is only able to produce 10 million tonnes out of 25 million tonnes in oils and fats the country needed for domestic consumption.
“It is not competitive for India to source palm cooking oil from Indonesia alone to fulfill the daily kitchen needs of its burgeoning population.
The government, he said, has offered to reduce the trade imbalance between Malaysia and India via MICECA, including looking into importing more raw sugar and buffalo meat from India.
“I think this is a positive step taken by my ministry not only to reduce the trade gap, but also enhance bilateral ties between Malaysia and India,” he added.