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News Admin
 
Date
 20/07/2006
News Provider
 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
News Source
 Bernama
Headline
 Palm Oil Project Gets Good Response From Foreign Investors

KOTA KINABALU, July 18 (Bernama) -- The project by the Sabah state government to turn Lahad Datu into a palm oil downstream processing hub called Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) has received warm response from foreign investors but lukewarm response from Malaysian investors, said POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd's chairman Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin.

"After having gone around Malaysia and many other countries in the last 10 months, we came across many investors in the United Kingdom, China, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, among others, who showed keen interest in coming to invest," Dr Ewon said.

A number of these investors have already made firm commitments to set up factories in Lahad Datu," he said in his speech at the opening of the POIC Sabah office here today.

The company was formed by the state government to undertake the development and promotion of the ongoing project since last year, covering 460 hectares in Lahad Datu for bulking and oil-based industries as well as for oil palm biomass and food-based processing.

Dr Ewon said Malaysian investors were still hesitant even though they have shown some interest but they did not seem to be as excited as overseas investors.

"This is a big irony. It is an irony because as the world's largest producer of palm oil, Malaysia is well ahead of the rest of the world in research and technology know-how on palm oil processing. We are best placed to seize the opportunities offered by POIC in Lahad Datu," he said.

In Sabah, some of the world's biggest palm oil companies which are mostly based in Malaysia owned hundreds of thousand hectares of oil palm plantation which meant they have less to worry about the supply of the raw materials than overseas investors, Dr Ewon said.

"They should be the first to be excited because the clustering concept of POIC brings promises to lower their entry cost, provide the basic and advanced infrastructure and generally make their production more efficient and competitive," he said.

Nevertheless, Dr Ewon said POIC Sabah has yet to give up on Malaysian investors, especially those from Sabah, and the company saw it as its responsibility to disseminate as much information about the business opportunities in hope of getting as many local players as possible.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the state government was committed to POIC's development because it saw the wealth-creation potential and bright future of palm oil in the world oil edible market.

The state government was aware that most of the economic indicators put Sabah near the bottom of the development table of Malaysia, demonstrated by the highest incidences of poverty and unemployment and the economic indicators have something to do with the failure to industrialise and add value to its precious commodities like timber and cocoa, he said.

"We knew a long time ago that we needed to deepen those sectors in order to earn more revenue and create more jobs. We knew there have been very limited plough-back investments and economic spin-offs of the oil palm sector in the state's economy," he added.

Despite producing almost 15 million tonnes or 30 percent of the country's palm oil production, Musa said the downstream activities were confined to milling and refining while further value-adding activities such as olechemical, biodiesel and energy production were unheard of.

By having POIC, the state government would help create employment for 20,000 new job seekers, including 4,000 university graduates in the state annually, he said.

-- BERNAMA

ECONOMICS & INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT DIVISION
Malaysian Palm Oil Board ( MPOB ) Lot 6, SS6, Jalan Perbandaran, 47301 Kelana Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, MALAYSIA.
Tel : 603 - 7802 2800 || Fax : 603 - 7803 3533