KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 (Bernama) -- The Ministry of Plantation Industriesand Commodities plans to organise a trade mission for cocoa and palm oilto Arab countries later this year to tap the relatively big market forthese products.
"We will be talking to the Arab Federation for Food Industries to scheduleit sometime this year," said the Deputy Minister of Plantation Industriesand Commodities, Datuk Anifah Aman.
"There is a vast potential in the food sector in Arab countries," Anifahtold a press conference after officiating the 2nd Malaysian Cocoa Tradeand Technical Awareness Programme (MCTTAP). He had represented theminister, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, at the event.
The president of the Arab Federation for Food Industries, Dr Hayssam, saidArab countries imported five million tonnes of palm oil to make soap,detergents, cooking oil and related products.
Among their biggest source is Malaysia where two million tonnes of palmoil are imported annually.
Dr Hayssam said there were also big opportunities in other types of foodas the imported food bill of Arab countries amounted to US$38 billion ayear and was rising six percent annually due to its population growth,estimated at 2.7 percent yearly.
He said his federation, with a membership of 1,500, was interested to seethe strenghening of ties between Arab countries and Malaysia, and woulduse its influence to urge Arab countries to establish Free TradeAgreements with Malaysia.
Reflecting the importance of Arab countries as the market for Malaysiancocoa products, the MCTTAP this year brought a total of 22 participantsfrom Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates forthe awareness programme. They comprised cocoa traders, importers andmanufacturers in their countries and are keen to know about the latest inMalaysia's cocoa industry.
Malaysian Cocoa Board's director general Datuk Dr Azhar Ismail saidMalaysia's export of cocoa products to West Asia increased 36.1 percent toRM88.4 million last year over 2002.
He said the two major cocoa items imported by West Asian countries werecocoa powder, which accounted for 56.7 percent of the total, andchocolates, accounting for 28.1 percent, thus making the region the secondlargest market for Malaysian cocoa powder and third important market forchocolates.
Dr Azhar said Malaysia earned RM1.26 billion from exports of cocoa beansand other cocoa products to more than 66 countries last year, up 40percent from the previous year.
In a speech read by Anifah, Peter Chin said the Malaysian cocoa industry'sgrinding capacity would increase to 350,000 tonnes annually in 2010 from260,000 tonness at present.
Presently, Malaysia has 10 cocoa grinders grinding 168,000 tonnes of cocoabeans annually, he said, adding that Malaysia was the largest cocoaprocessor in Asia and the fifth largest in the world.