In jab at India, Pakistan pledges to buy more Malaysian palm oil – dpa international


Mahathir Mohamad greets the crowd at a May 5 2018 campaign event in Kedah State in Malaysia’s northwest (Simon Roughneen)

Pakistan plans to import more Malaysian palm oil to make up for losses incurred since India imposed informal restrictions on Malaysian imports last month.

Speaking alongside visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan today, Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad said Pakistan is “quite ready” to import more of the commodity from Malaysia.

Khan in turn thanked Mahathir for speaking out against New Delhi’s policies in Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region divided between India and Pakistan, and said his country will “try its best to compensate” Malaysia for India’s apparent retaliation. Mahathir has also accused the Indian government of discriminating against Muslims.

Malaysia’s Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok described Khan’s promise as “a testament to the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries,” telling dpa that during a recent visit to Pakistan she “was made aware that there is a shortage of crude palm oil in the country.”

Kok said Pakistan has been “one of Malaysia’s most regular and dependable buyers of palm oil and products” but it seems unlikely that any increase in purchases by Islamabad can make up for losses incurred by India’s import ban, given that India’s 2019 imports of Malaysian palm oil were four times Pakistan’s, according to statistics from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, a local industry body.

International Monetary Fund estimates put India’s 2019 gross domestic product at almost 3 trillion dollars, making its economy more than 10 times bigger than Pakistan’s.

Trade data for 2019 published today by the Malaysian government show palm oil making up 6.6 per cent of total exports, with India and China neck and neck as Malaysia’s two biggest buyers.

After Indonesia, Malaysia is the world’s second biggest exporter of palm oil, a versatile commodity used in household goods such as soap and toothpaste. However palm oil has been linked to habitat destruction and species loss due to jungle and peatland being cleared to make way for plantations.

The European Union is considering phasing out palm oil use by 2030 due to environmental concerns. Malaysia has repeatedly slammed the EU proposals as protectionist.

In an apparent response to the EU proposals, China, the world’s second-biggest palm oil buyer, said in April 2018 it would increase palm oil imports from Malaysia and Indonesia. However concerns are growing that China’s economy could slow due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, in turn meaning reduced palm oil purchases, according to The Malaysian Palm Oil Board, another industry body.

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