Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Assalamualaikum WBT, Salam Sejahtera and Salam Negaraku Malaysia.

Terlebih dahulu saya ingin merakamkan penghargaan dan terima kasih kepada YB Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong atas jemputan ke majlis ini. Saya dimaklumkan Palm Oil Industry Leadership Award atau PILA, merupakan acara tahunan yang penting dalam kalendar para pemain industri sawit Malaysia Ia membawa erti yang besar  kerana majlis PILA ini adalah untuk memberi pengiktirafan kepada para pemimpin dan individu yang telah memberi sumbangan yang signifikan untuk pembangunan industri sawit

Tahun ini  majlis PILA lebih bermakna kerana kita meraikan sambutan 100 tahun industri sawit Malaysia  Sehubungan itu  pada kesempatan ini  saya mengucapkan tahniah kepada wakil-wakil industri serta semua pemegang taruh yang hadir malam ini Sesungguhnya sumbangan Tuan-tuan telah memperkasakan industri minyak sawit Malaysia selama ini  dan saya ikhlas berharap Tuan-tuan akan terus bersama Kerajaan membawa industri ini ke tahap yang lebih tinggi lagi

Ladies and gentlemen

Oil palm is not native to Malaysia  It was introduced as an orna-mental plant way back in the 1870s  and remained so until 1917 when the first commercial planting started  transforming itself into a new commodity crop  and laying the foundation for the creation of the Malaysian palm oil industry. Since that historic moment  the industry has  over the years grown and evolved  and along the way  minting Malaysia's international presence  as the world's leading producer  and exporter of palm oil. The industry played an instrumental  and important role in poverty alle-viation in the country  In the words of Allahyarham Tun Abdul Razak  palm oil planting provided land for the landless  and jobs for the jobless

Today  this industry sustains some 650,000 smallholders  and if we take the entire breath of the palm oil supply chain into account  two million Malaysians rely on the industry for their live-lihood. These numbers tell a story  a story of how palm oil is inter-twained with Malaysia  and a bond that can never be broken. Records have shown that  when we gained Independence 60 years ago  half of the population were grappling with poverty  with a majority of them were living in rural areas  and infrastructure was wanting. There was a big gap  in the living conditions of urban and rural populations  simply because of the imbalance economic opportunities

The Government realised that it had to urgently address this imbalance. Driven by the conviction to ensure the Malaysian sun  shines on every Malaysian  policies were formulated to ensure a balanced economic growth  and reduce income gap between the rural and urban Malaysians. This innovative approach started with the setting up of FELDA in 1956  and of course  oil palm was the chosen cash crop  FELDA’s success  led to the setting up of other land development agencies such as FELCRA  SALCRA   and KESEDAR  all aimed at generating more employment opportunities

The success of FELDA is the envy of the world  because in just one generation  we not only reduced poverty  but created a middle class that did not exist before  In this regard  the United Nations and other international agencies  have acknowledged that   Malaysia has one of the best poverty reduction  and economic restructuring programmes in the world. Today  Malaysia is a vibrant player in the global palm oil industry  producing close to 20 million tonnes of palm oil  with a total export value of 67 billion Ringgit last year  

Ladies and gentlemen

Our palm oil industry is however  facing unprecedented challenges  and continues to face anti-palm oil campaigns with consumers’ countries  especially in the European Union  such as palm oil free labelling  to systematically sideline the palm oil industry. We cannot stay silent any longer  We must respond to all the negative campaigns on palm oil  We must respond rationally  with facts and figures on the issues of de-forestation  and destruction of wildlife. The Government will not tolerate the negative campaigns  and we will ensure  on behalf of all of you here  and especially the 650,000 smallholders  that Malaysia gives a fitting response to those who harm the palm oil industry

We must also forge ahead with sustainable certification  and adopt best agricultural practices  We must brand palm oil well  because it is a versatile and nutritious oil. In this regard  I welcome the decision that the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil or MSPO certification  will be made mandatory by 2019  I strongly believe that this is the best move  Malaysia set the agenda on certification  and not an external body  that may not have the best interests of the industry at heart

As the Member of Parliament for Bagan Datuk  I am well aware of these challenges  as palm oil is an integral part of the local economy  but let me rei-terate that  the benefits of MSPO certification to both the smallholders and estate owners  outweigh the costs of it. The Government has allocated 130 million Ringgit  as an incentive for smallholders  to help them obtain the MSPO certification for free. It is encouraging that so far  19 sustainable palm oil clusters  involving 1,040 individual smallholders  and 4,127 hectare land  have obtained the certification.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Government remains committed to ensure the wellbeing of smallholders  Smallholders feature prominently in Malaysia’s palm oil success story  This is because  this golden crop has lifted millions  out of poverty and provided much needed upward social mobility  for rural Malaysians. In view of this  the Government has allocated 1.04 billion Ringgit for smallholders  under the 10th Malaysia Plan  and a further 540 million Ringgit  under the 11th Malaysia Plan  to undertake replanting  and new planting. That is not all  In addition  48 million Ringgit has been allocated  to facilitate the participation of smallholders  in the livestock integration scheme  that will generate extra income for them

Ladies and gentlemen

As the next wave of technological disruption takes place in the form of Industry 4.0  we must be at the forefront of embracing new technologies  to add value to the palm oil industry. For example  there is an urgent need to embrace mecha-nai-zation  precision agriculture  and automation in the upstream sector  to reduce the dependency on labour. Increased productivity will also bring increased returns  and the Government has provided funds and incentives  to encourage mecha-nai-zation and automation.

Palm oil industry must also seriously consider adopting  and using information technology  not only to ensure food chain security  and tracing of the supply chain  but also to ensure palm oil is sustainably produced  and is seen to be produced sustainably. This will also silence the critics of palm oil  Besides that  we must harness new technologies  and leverage on the experiences of the last 100 years  to ensure we remain on top of the game  in ensuring national and global food security. Towards this end  I would like to see MPOB intensify its research efforts  and focus on commercially-driven research  so we can monetise our efforts  and bring more value to the palm oil industry  

As the world population grows rapidly  there is room a natural growth of the palm oil industry  Therefore  we must work hard by opening up new export markets  and strengthening our position in the current markets  where we have a good foothold. It is in the best interests of all of us  to ensure Malaysia remains a key player in R and D  and innovation  and remains committed towards sustainably produced palm oil

Ladies and gentlemen

As we reflect on the success  and the strides of the last hundred years  indeed  we have done well  However  as we are living in the future  the challenges we will face  are not fully known. The next 100 years may not be as kind as the last hundred years  Even though palm oil remains the world’s most widely consumed vegetable oil  with the ons-slaught of the anti-palm oil lobby  and the advancement of the other vegetable oils we must ensure that we go our best to remain in pole position. The Government will continue to set clear and right policies with precise goals  and the industry must meet us regularly and provide the fullest cooperation  to ensure this industry prosper. We have a plan for the industry and the country  and we will make it work together  for we owe it to Malaysia and Malaysians  a continued prosperity and stability.

Ladies and gentlemen  

Before I return to my seat  I would like to congratulate the recipients of the Palm Oil Industry Leadership Award 2017, and the Palm Oil Lifetime Achievement Award this year. I hope the outstanding contributions and achievements of these individuals  will encourage many more to follow in their footsteps  for the benefits of our palm oil industry. With the industry players’ un-wavering support towards the Government  I am confident that our palm industry will continue to strengthen  and flourish for the next 100 years and beyond  Thank you  and please enjoy the rest of the evening