25 MEI 2022 – The UK and Malaysia have enjoyed 65 years of diplomatic relations since the Federation of Malaya’s independence in 1957. This year also marked the 70th year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne of the British monarch. As we are all aware, Her Majesty The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth.
Our partnership is founded firmly on common values :• Respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations• Mutual respect and benefit• A commitment to rules-based trade and to low-carbon development to tackle climate change• Respect and promotion of the rule of law and human rights• Advancement of international law and multilateralism and the promotion of peace, security and prosperity in line with the United Nations and Commonwealth Charters. The UK is Malaysia 19th largest trading partner. In 2021, the total trade of goods and services for both countries accounted for £5.2 billion. Malaysian export of agricultural commodities (Palm Oil, Rubber, Timber, Cocoa and Pepper) contributed to 14% of the total trade, valued at £734 million. This agriculture trade export has shown an increase of 17% compared to 2020, which is £628 million.
As the UK has shown interest in ensuring that agricultural commodities entering the UK are sustainably sourced, Malaysia has been working closely with the UK to ensure that the voice of producing countries like Malaysia are heard and any new laws to be enacted that may affect the trade exchanges are in line with the spirit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) as a whole – economically, socially and environmentally.
We also showed our support during UK’s Presidency of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) last year and contributed to the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land used. In relation to that,
we are committed to strengthening our cooperation through the Forest, Agriculture and Commodities Trade Dialogue (FACT Dialogue) where we were tasked as the co-facilitators for the Smallholder Support Working Group.Malaysia’s Sustainability Efforts in Commodities.
Sustainability has always been the central theme of Malaysia’s economic policy direction throughout the years from the National Economic Policy (NEP) in the 1970s, New Economic Model (NEM) in 2009, Vision 2020 and the latest Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.Sustainability has always been associated with deforestation. However, it is crucial to note that sustainability is more than just forests. The United Nations’ definition of sustainability is clear: social and economic sustainability is on an equal plane with environmental. So, the Malaysian Government is also focused on supporting small farmers and their economic communities. Among the initiatives includes developing infrastructure, granting financial assistance where needed, and protecting the ability of small farmers to earn a living. Our sustainability practices recognises how these issues are interconnected and requires a systematic approach. MPIC stands guided by the action plans of the UNSDGs blueprint, particularly on:• Goal 1 (No Poverty)• Goal 2 (Zero Hunger)• Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth)• Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure)• Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production)• Goal 15 (Life on Land) • Goal 17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goal)9. Taking an example from the palm oil industry, I want to stress that the Malaysian palm oil industry now focuses on improving productivity and yields rather than expanding land for cultivation. Forest protection is a priority for our government. Malaysia also assures the world that it will not retreat from its 1992 Earth Summit pledge on sustainable development – it will keep at least 50% of its total land area under permanent forest. Malaysia has also committed to plant ‘1 million forest trees species within the next ten (10) years’..Another important measure taken by the Malaysian Government through the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) is the introduction of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (MSPO) in 2015, which was made mandatory starting from January 2020. The MSPO Certification Scheme ensures that Malaysian palm oil is sustainably produced and safe for consumption. It also seeks to reduce the industry’s social and environmental impacts and help independent smallholders certify their palm oil for the export market. In addition, the certification ensures the country’s palm oil industry complies with international sustainability requirements encompassing the whole supply chain, from growers and millers to traders and retailers.11.MPIC through the National Agri-commodity’s Strategic Plan is also committed to ensure that other commodities will have their own certification systems in the future.Circular Economy12.Integrating a circular economy into the production of Agri-commodities, particularly palm oil, is an effective solution to optimise the usage of resources (raw materials) and minimise wastage from production, emissions and energy inefficiency.13.This is done by reducing, reusing and recycling materials commonly underutilised in the current linear economy. The model adopts a circular pathway which utilises usable materials after the first processing cycle by reintroducing it back into the second processing cycle of similar or different products as secondary raw materials. Ultimately, this process will translate into optimising raw materials by continually adding value to its users along the supply chain. 14.Production of palm oil results in multiple types of secondary products (solid and liquid) in high volumes, such as Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME), Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB), decanter cake and palm pressed fibres. These biomass products can be further utilised directly to produce new value-added products or as alternative energy sources to fuel the production facility.
.The incorporation of this model will not only address the environmental aspect plaguing the palm oil industry but also the economic concern of the supplies of primary raw materials. MPIC is also planning to expend the circular economy technology to other Agri-commodities such as rubber, pepper and Kenaf to ensure a more effective and sustainable waste management.16.As the industry embarks on reusing its waste, the reliance on primary sources will diminish. This contributes to reducing deforestation and lowering our carbon footprint. Introducing new usages of secondary products will also bring about new economic opportunities. Furthermore, it could significantly disrupt the current energy industry by increasing the accessibility to biomass as an energy alternative, in tandem with the world’s commitment to decarbonising its economy by reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. 17.I wish to highlight that Malaysia has been at the forefront of promoting palm oil and palm biomass in the manufacturing sector. The National Biomass Strategy 2020 (NBS2020) set a target to turn palm biomass into higher-value products that will create an incremental gross national income (GNI) of £5.5 billion(RM30 billion) and 66,000 new jobs while attracting £4.6 billion (RM25 billion) in investment and reducing carbon emissions by 12%.18.
The circular economy model is undoubtedly the way forward for Malaysia’s Agri-commodity sustainable and ethical sourcing. Despite the challenges of integrating, it into the current linear model, the focus would be to create more value. There is much value extracted from reusing and recycling these raw materials.CLOSING REMARKS : Malaysia – UK Partnership Opportunities19.Malaysia opens its doors to work with international parties includinggovernment agencies, academicians, research institutes, industry players and businesses to ensure the Agri-commodity industry continues to developprogressively and sustainably.20..Looking at sustainability and circular economy, we realise that we have to work with many stakeholders and potential tech players to harness the latest technology to further explore the full potential of Agri-commodities production. There is a need for better facilities, more advanced technologies and substantial investments into the industry to ensure a competitive edge against traditional practices.21.I hope this forum can further look into the possible opportunities for partnershipsbetween our countries and strengthening both countries’ national economic agendas.22.On that note, I wish all delegates and participants of the Malaysia – British Partnership Forum a fruitful discussion.