Malaysia looks to Pakistan after Indian palm oil controls

Malaysia looks to Pakistan after Indian palm oil controls
Malaysia looks to Pakistan after Indian palm oil controls

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may expand its palm oil trade with Pakistan following controls imposed by the Indian government on refined palm oil imports. 
“Pakistan is one of Malaysia’s most regular and dependable buyers of local palm oil and products,” Malaysian Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said on Sunday.
Kok met Pakistan’s Adviser for Commerce, Textiles, Industry and Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood on an official visit to Pakistan.
“In 2018, Pakistan imported 1.16 million metric tons of palm oil from Malaysia valued at RM2.97 billion ($730 million). Avenues were discussed to further expand Malaysian palm oil share in this growing market,” said a statement by the Ministry of Primary Industries in Malaysia on Sunday following the minister’s visit.
India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) last week announced restrictions on the import of refined palm oil and palm olein, a liquid form of palm oil. Importers will now be required to apply for licenses. 
Indian media reported that while the announcement was “not country-specific, but product-specific,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had “informally” requested palm oil refiners and traders forgo Malaysian palm oil. 
India is the world’s biggest palm oil importer and in 2018 imported $3.8 billion worth of palm oil from Indonesia, and $1.3 billion from Malaysia. The two Southeast Asian countries are the world’s main producers in the palm oil industry.
The Indian import controls came after remarks by Malaysian Prime Minister regarding India’s actions on Kashmir and the new citizenship law last year.
A Malaysian political analyst from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Dr. Oh Ei Sun, said that the restriction “doesn’t help to improve bilateral relations” and is seen as New Delhi’s retaliation to a series of remarks made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad regarding India’s widely criticized citizenship laws and Kashmir lockdown.
“We speak out our minds and we don’t retract and change,” said the 94-year old leader at a press event in October regarding his UN speech last year calling for a UN resolution on the Jammu and Kashmir conflicts.
He also spoke out against the new citizenship legislation last year during the KL Summit in December, claiming that the new law would “deprive some Muslims of their citizenship.”
Mahathir’s decision to allow controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik to remain in Malaysia also upset Modi.
“As India is a major buyer of Malaysian refined palm oil, palm oil refining industry will, of course, be significantly affected,” Dr. Oh said, adding that it remains to be seen if the broader crude palm oil-producing industry will be affected.

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