No word on India boycott of Malaysian palm oil

(The Star) – Malaysia has yet to receive any diplomatic note from India regarding calls to boycott Malaysian palm oil products, says Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya.

He said the issue could have been exploited by certain groups in order to worsen the relationship between the two countries.

“I cannot comment because we have yet to get any remarks from the Indian embassy about the issue,” he said at the Parliament lobby.

He said the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) had taken proactive measures to manage such issues.

“So far, it is from the private sector, and there are those who are making statements to exploit the negative situation between Malaysia and India.

“We have to study first and comment after that,” he said.

Amid the call by an Indian trade association for importers to shun Malaysian palm oil, a political body from southern India has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government not to reduce palm oil imports from Malaysia.Bernama reported that the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) said any reduction of Malaysian palm oil imports by India will impact workers from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu who are currently employed in Malaysia.

TNCC president K.S. Alagiri said at least 500,000 people from Tamil Nadu were working in the information technology sector and restaurants in Malaysia.

“They also send almost 90% of their wages to their families living in India,” he said in a statement, which he shared via his official Twitter handle @KS_Alagiri. TNCC is a wing of the Indian National Congress in Tamil Nadu.

According to the World Bank, India tops the global list of remittance recipients, with US$79bil (RM331bil) last year, mainly from the Gulf nations, with Malaysia ranked among the top 20.

Alagiri explained that reducing palm oil imports from Malaysia would also have an impact on the Malaysian Indian community as many of them work in the oil palm and rubber estates in Malaysia.

“Thus, the Tamil Nadu Congress party is urging the Modi government not to reduce the import of palm oil from Malaysia,” he said.

India, the world’s largest vegetable oil importer, relies on Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil, with Malaysia exporting palm oil worth US$1.65bil (RM6.9 bil) to India in 2018.

Last Monday, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, which represents oilseed crushers, advised its members not to buy Malaysian palm oil, taking a cue from New Delhi’s protest against Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the Kashmir conflict.

On Aug 5, the Indian government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s legal autonomous status and imposed many unprecedented security measures, including cutting off Internet and phone services, to prevent protests in the region.In his speech at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Dr Mahathir had said that “despite the UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the country has been invaded and occupied”, and called on India to “work with Pakistan to resolve this problem”.

On Oct 4, India’s External Affairs Ministry protested against Dr Mahathir’s reference to Kashmir, though the Indian government itself has yet to state its official stand on Malaysian palm oil.