In order to remain competitive in today’s world, Malaysia needs to diversify its agricultural commodities and its applications in order to drive progressive agriculture-based industry in the country.
This echoes YAB Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that called for more research and development into agricultural commodities.
On that note, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia organised the 30th ASM IdeaXchange titled Alternative Commodity Export for Malaysia on 8 October 2018.
The IdeaXchange session started off with an overview of the plantation industries and commodities industries in Malaysia by Mr Othman Asmaon, Deputy Under Secretary, Strategic Planning and International Division, Ministry of Primary Industries Malaysia.
Mr Othman’s presentation focused on the performance of existing plantation commodities such as oil palm, rubber, timber, cocoa, pepper and kenaf.
As of 2017, Mr Othman reported that plantation commodities contributed RM90.4 billion or 7.7% of Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and making RM140.3 billion in export earnings.
He also highlights the global achievements of Malaysian commodities: Malaysia is the largest exporter of rubber gloves, and the second largest exporter of palm oil and fat in the world.
Mr Othman also mentions the National Commodity Policy (NCP) 2011-2020, launched on 17 February 2012. The NCP provides strategic direction for the development of the plantation and commodities industry until 2020.
Following Mr Othman’s presentation, ASM Fellow Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Nik FASc moderated the discussion on alternative commodity export for Malaysia.
As part of the discussion, Dr Tan Swee Lian FASc provided her input on possible alternative commodity crops. She suggested reviving crops that used to be mainstream for Malaysia, such as coconuts. She also stated that advancements in crop management and disease control has made it possible for these crops to be revived with significant returns of investment. Other crops that were suggested include mangoes, pineapples, and sweet potatoes.
The 30th IdeaXchange was held in conjunction with the launching of the Local and Transboundary Haze Study Report, as well as the tree-planting activity at Taman Tugu Park Nursery Site. The tree-planting activity was organised as part of an initiative by Taman Tugu Project to invite selected organisations to plant seedlings of rainforest trees at the designated forest reserve.