BEIJING: There is huge potential for Malaysia to cement its presence in China’s market for palm oil and palm oil-based value-added products over the next three to five years while reducing its dependence on the European market, said the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

Chairman Datuk Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha acknowledged that China’s import volume of the commodity from Malaysia has slowly declined in recent years, but said Malaysia is now focusing on exporting more value-added products to the country.

“This is what we are (seeking) right now. We have no problem with Indonesia exporting a big volume of crude palm oil worldwide.

“As for Malaysia, we want them (China) to import higher value-added products (from us) and we are seeing an improvement (in this area) year-on-year,” said Mohamad Helmy, who was part of a palm oil promotion mission to China headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, who is also the Plantation and Commodities Minister.

Helmy said the Palm Oil Research and Technical Service Institute of Malaysian Palm Oil Board (Portsim), founded in 2005, has created between three and eight new value-added products using palm oil annually to cater to Chinese consumer needs.

“Chinese consumers now are very sophisticated. They require better health products, better nutrients and, of course, sustainable products, and our sustainable palm oil is the answer. So we are on the right track,” Mohamad Helmy said.

He also said Chinese food and non-food manufacturers are currently facing a shortage of tallow (animal fat) for their products, and there is potential for Malaysia to replace that with palm oil.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO Belvinder Sron said China is more conscious about environmental, social and governance requirements because it is exporting to other countries.

“We are in a good position to help China meet that demand because we already have our Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certificate (which) is a competitive edge we have against other palm oil producing countries,” she said.

She urged Malaysian companies to be more aggressive in penetrating the Chinese market with its 1.4 billion population and to make frequent visits to be closer to their buyers.

She said there are untapped opportunities in both the food and non-food sectors.

Belvinder said the future expansion strategy for Malaysian palm oil will be in Asean.

“But China and India will remain our prime markets. Next will be the Middle East market and the African continent.

“We cannot (rely) on the European Union when it is coming out with so many regulations that are impacting our exports,” she said. – Bernama