Agriculture sector players must be ready to meet demand from China – Ahmad Shabery

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

NANNING: Agricultural industry players in Malaysia, especially for ‘Musang King’ durian, must start making thorough preparations to meet demand from the huge China market, as exports to the republic are projected to breach RM12 billion annually by 2020.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the issue of getting approval for fresh durian to enter China was no longer a concern following a positive response from the Chinese government and local residents, but the concern was on Malaysia’s own capability to meet their market demand.

“We are aware that demand for agricultural products from Malaysia, especially durian, has huge potential in China … based on our calculation, if we can reach just 30% of demand from China, we can achieve trade value of RM12 billion. We can realise this target by 2020.

“For example, one company in China has requested the supply of about 600 tonnes of durian per month, this is just one company. And this requires thorough preparation to meet the needs from China,” he said to reporters after launching the Malaysia Durian Festival 2017 (MDF2017) in Nanning, Guangxi, China, today.

MDF2017, which is held here for three days from Nov 3, is an initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to promote fresh Musang King durian and other durian-based products such as ice cream and coffee as well as other fresh products including honey jackfruit, pineapple and bird’s nest.

Commenting on the response from local residents to the festival, Ahmad Shabery said the ministry’s tagline ‘Durian Brings Happiness’ had become a reality as the response was very encouraging.

“The response was tremendous and it (festival) brings happiness just like our tagline, as many people were queuing up from morning to taste the Musang King durian.

“This is a new chapter in our agriculture world as we have successfully put Malaysia’s product in the spotlight at the durian festival,” he said.

Ahmad Shabery said following the encouraging response, the ministry had received applications from other cities in China to organise such festivals in their regions.

“Now there are requests not only from Nanning but other cities such as Hanjiao, Xiamen, Guangzhou and Beijing for us to carry out agricultural road shows like the durian festival.

“We will continue to promote not only durian, but also jackfruit and pineapple, and aquaculture products like shrimp,” he added.


Analysts positive on September exports jump by 14.8 per cent

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

KUCHING: Malaysia’s exports remained strong for 11 consecutive months, with September registering double-digit growth of 14.8 per cent to RM78.26 billion compared to the same month of last year, said the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti).

It said in the first nine months of 2017, exports surged by 21.3 per cent to RM690.25 billion from the corresponding period a year ago.

“Based on the performance so far, the full-year estimate of 16.6 per cent export growth as stated in the Economic Report 2017/2018 is well within reach.

“This would support the projected economic growth of between 5.2 per cent and 5.7 per cent for 2017,” said Miti in a statement.

Meanwhile, the team at MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd (MIDF Research) saw that global demand show signs of moderation.

“We noticed global demand momentum is moderating and start to lose its steam,” it said yesterday. “For instance, Malaysia’s exports to China are growing at decelerating pace from peak of 51.5 per cent year on year (y-o-y) in May to 27.1 per cent y-o-y in September.

“Similar patterns were observed with other exports destinations such as US, Hong Kong, Australia and Asean. Among others, unfavorable base effect, geopolitical risks and market uncertainties are major dragging factors on global demand.”

In spite of this, MIDF Research foresee towards the end of year global demand will remain on upward bias given that year-end sales, uptick in tourism activity and launches of new electronic devices will occur during the months.

Zooming into China, the Mooncake Festival and Golden Week which befall in October are expected to lead to higher exports demand from the world’s second largest economy.

“We can expect exports to China and Hong Kong will rise strongly in October due to these two events,” the research team said.

MITI said the September export growth was driven by manufactured goods, which grew by 17.1 per cent or RM9.58 billion to RM65.62 billion, accounting for 83.9 per cent of Malaysia’s total exports.

The increase was supported mainly by higher exports of electrical and electronic (E&E) products which rose by 17.7 per cent to RM30.87 billion from last year.

“This was the nine consecutive months where exports of E&E products recorded a double-digit growth,” said MITI.

Apart from E&E products, double-digit expansion in exports was also recorded for petroleum products, the manufacture of metal, transport equipment, optical and scientific equipment, rubber products, iron and steel products as well as textiles, apparels and footwear.

With the emphasis on export promotion in the 2018 Budget, MITI said exports are expected to be sustained in 2018.

As for imports in September, it grew by 15.2 per cent to RM69.65 billion compared with September 2016. In the first nine months of 2017, imports amounted to RM620.66 billion, rising by 22 per cent.

Total trade expanded by 15 per cent to RM147.91 billion in September 2017. Malaysia’s trade in the first nine months of 2017 increased by 21.7 per cent to RM1.311 trillion compared with the same period of 2016.

In September, trade surplus rose to RM8.6 billion, making it the 239th consecutive month of trade surplus recorded since November 1997.

For the first nine months of 2017, the trade surplus amounted to RM69.59 billion, a 15.6 per cent increase over the same period of 2016.

On a month-on-month basis, total trade, exports and imports contracted by 4.3 per cent, 4.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively.

Even though exports growth in the third quarter of 2017 still on robust speed, MIDF Research viewed that Malaysia’s exports to moderate in the final quarter due to unfavourable base effect.

“In spite of this, continuous strengthening global demand and modest recovery in commodity price will support our trade performance this year,” it said.

“Protectionist threat, geopolitical tension and policy uncertainties in developed countries remains headwinds for global trade in the near term.”


Sabah Gym for Life gymnasts take gold in KL Gymnastic Festival

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : Local

KOTA KINABALU: A group of Sabah gymnasts who shone for their country in an international competition several months ago has done it again.

The Gym For Life gymnasts from the Sabah Gymnastics Association (SGA) bagged a gold medal in the Kuala Lumpur Gymnastics Festival, which ended on Oct 29.

In July, the team participated in the third World Gym For Life Challenge in Norway and came back with a silver.

Last Sunday, members of the group had gone out to the floor with smiles on their faces, showing not an ounce of anxiety, and performed their moves with ease despite never winning gold since taking part in the competition in 2014.

Vivace Danz World from Kuala Lumpur was crowned the competition’s overall champion with their amazing performance titled The Pirates.

The Sabah coach, Christopher Liew, said he was quite worried when he first saw his team performing.

“I was worried because they were so relaxed.

“They were simply enjoying the performance.

“I am very proud of my gymnasts,” Liew said.

He thanked the parents who have been very supportive since the beginning.

Team manager Florence Fung said she was proud of her team.

“Their efforts paid off, even though many of them were busy with the recent UPSR and PT3 examinations.

“Preparing for the important examinations did not stop them from pushing their limits and giving their best,” she added.

She said they had outdone their expectations, considering they only trained once a week for the past seven weeks.

The annual event, organised by Persatuan Gimnastik Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, saw participation from 21 Malaysian groups and one each from Sri Lanka and Thailand.


Turkey hopes to strike trade balance with Malaysia

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Turkey is looking to increase exports to Malaysia in several identified areas with growth potential and strike a balance in trade, says outgoing Turkish Ambassador, Basak Turkogu.

The trade balance is currently in Malaysia’s favour.

“Despite the great improvement in bilateral trade between both countries since the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) in 2016, there remains a huge gap in terms of export value which has benefited Malaysia.

“I think there is a huge potential (for exports) in respect of the defence industry, which was my priority. Then, comes education and of course technology, as well as cooperating in the food industry such as the halal sector and electrical appliances.

“It (bilateral trade) is now flourishing. We have to deepen and enhance the relationship which has greater mutual trust and understanding, underlined by a strong partnership base via all the legal agreements, as well as political will,” she told Bernama.

Turkogu is expected to leave Malaysia this month, to take up her next posting in Malta.

She expressed her gratitude towards Malaysia’s solidarity and cooperation towards Turkey in difficult times.

“We went through a really difficult time in 2016, with one terrorist attack after another. While we were navigating through all those troubles, we always found solidarity and cooperation from the Malaysian government and its people,” she added.

Sharing her experience in Malaysia, Turkogu said the country was the most beautiful in terms of its people and places. “For the first time in my career, I feel very torn apart (about leaving Malaysia). Normally, when  posted to a country for a couple of years and know we would be leaving, we feel like,”yes”.

“But because of the warm friendship of the people here, my heart remains in Malaysia,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Chief Commercial Counsellor at the Turkish Embassy, Refik Ozgur said as of September this year, Malaysia recorded exports of US$2 billion to Turkey.

Turkish exports to Malaysia stood at US$200 million.

“Malaysian companies have taken advantage of the FTA. Among the main items from Malaysia to Turkey are palm oil, raw aluminium and electronic products, including solar energy,” Ozgur said.


Sabah Forestry Dept ironing out issues to meet RSPO Compliance by 2025 – San Mannan

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

SANDAKAN (Bernama) — The Sabah Forestry Department is working to identify and sort out land issues to help the state’s palm oil industry meet its target of full compliance under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2025.

Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan said by meeting the standards set under RSPO on environment and governance, Sabah would be able to compete effectively with other countries as a sustainable palm oil producer.

RSPO is an international non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable palm oil products through global standards.

“The whole state of Sabah (palm oil produced in the state) will become certified by 2025 and this can be achieved by pooling all players including smallholders to achieve economies of scale and efficiency,” he said during a media briefing at the Sabah Forestry Department Office here recently.

He said the forestry department was working with palm oil players under the RSPO jurisdiction programme as the industry assumed a key role in contributing to the state’s exports.

In meeting the jurisdiction set by RSPO, he said, one major initiative undertaken was to assess and define the different types of forest.

By scanning the forest and categorising them into categories such as native land, forest reserve or heavy carbon stock areas, would facilitate analysis and policy decision.

However, there are still challenges in the jurisdiction process, particularly, in sorting out the definition for land with high conservation value (HCV) and what constituted deforestation.

This, according to Sam was important in sorting out compensation and forest that needed to be set aside and not be touched for any purpose.

According to RSPO principles and criteria, growers are required to complete HCV assessment on land for new plantings from November 2005.

Meanwhile, RSPO Technical Director Salahudin Yaacob said: “Any planting after 2005, must be done together with HCV study and any conversion of land must not impinge HCV areas”.

He said this was necessary as certification cannot be granted under RSPO if any planting was done on HCV areas after 2005.

Any conversion of HCV land, he added, would have to be accompanied by a compensation plan evaluated and approved by the RSPO panel.

Cynthia Ong, Board Chair and Chief Executive Facilitator of Forever Sabah, a non-governmental organisation, told the briefing that discussions were necessary as to who should compensate for deforestation in land areas under HCV after 2005.

“Does this involve the state government which has to compensate for land under the Total Protected Areas (TPA). This is still up for discussions,” she added.


Govt to set up RM50m fund to invest in SMEs – Johari

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

Kuala Lumpur: The government will set up a co-investment fund (CIF) totalling RM50 million from existing grants to be invested in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) together with the private investors through equity crowdfunding (ECF) and peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms.

Second Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, said the Securities Commission (SC) would assist in establishing the fund including deciding on the co-investment criteria for equity and debt financing.

“The platforms (ECF dan P2P) are very important for the SME ecosystem as it provide the opportunities for the SMEs to expand their business,” he said to reporters after launching SCxSC Digital Finance Conference 2017 here Monday.

He said the government through SME Corporation Malaysia would utilise these platforms in giving out the grants to the SMEs.

Earlier in his keynote address, Johari said through the CIF, the government was hoping to provide efficient mechanism for shared partnership and responsibility with Malaysian investors to co-invest and grow the SMEs.

He said for investors, the “democratisation” of funding would strengthen the investor base among retail investors.

“With the availability of the right products and platforms, retail investors can now participate easily in investment activities and stand to gain from their ventures,” he said.

He said for investors who viewed investing as a powerful tool to drive sustainable and inclusive agenda, participation in investment activities would enable this class of investors to be directly involved in making impactful changes through sustainable investment options.

Johari said with the growing Internet penetration as well as the availability of various alternative financing platforms, investing activities were no longer exclusive for “accredited investors” but more accessible to the masses.

He said the development must be welcomed and the benefits of the democratisation of investments were indeed multi-pronged.

“For small businesses and start-ups, democratisation of investments means that they have higher chances to secure funding, and more often than not, at a more affordable cost,” he said.

He said apart from ECF and P2P, the government was also encouraging the growth venture capital industry.

“Because these three are part of the ecosystem that we need to create in order to take the risk out from banking sector,” he added.


TalentCorp forms industry advisory panel, Talent Compact 4.0

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

KUALA LUMPUR: Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) has established Talent Compact 4.0, an independent advisory panel that will assist in the development of the National Future of Work Action Plan.

“With a National Future of Work Action Plan that identifies the opportunities and risks that will arise from Industry Revolution 4.0, we will be able to outline and specify the strategies and actions towards future-proofing our Malaysian workforce,” TalentCorp CEO Shareen Shariza Abdul Ghani told reporters at a press conference today.

She said the national agency’s priority is to ensure that the nation is able to smoothly transit into a workforce that is ready for the future of work.

Hence, she said the initiative will provide guidance and recommend strategies and interventions needed to ensure the nation’s talent ecosystem is sufficiently agile and ready to face future challenges and disruptions on work, workplace as well as workforce.

The panel, chaired by TalentCorp’s Board of Trustees Datuk Seri Idris Jala, comprises 10 panellists, which include Digi Telecommunications CEO Albern Murty, Siemens Malaysia president and CEO Datuk Prakash Chandran, CIMB group CEO Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz and Google Malaysia managing director Sajith Sivanandan.

With combined expertise and experiences of the panel, Idris said Talent Compact 4.0 will provide the government with strategic guidance and input to help steer the nation’s talent agenda in the right direction.

Idris said the initiative is timely, as having a future-ready workforce is critical towards ensuring Malaysia succeeds in the competitive marketplace of the future.

“With the Industrial Revolution 4.0, we know that work is going to change fundamentally in the future with the adaptation of technology, artificial intelligence and stuff like that,” he added, noting TalentCorp will launch the study by early next year.

In addition, Shareen said the Talent Compact 4.0 initiative complements the National Leaders’ Circle, an initiative introduced in Budget 2018 to create a talent pipeline of Malaysian leaders.


PNB (Permodalan Nasional Bhd) taking opportunistic approach investments

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National Business

KUALA LUMPUR: Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) is taking an opportunistic approach in determining the direction of its international investments to ensure the depositors get high returns.

Its Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, said the group is currently studying the right market, including the United States, Europe, ASEAN and North Asia, as well as right timing to grow its international investments, which are relatively low currently.

“At this point, 98 per cent of our investments are in Malaysia. Obviously, in the longer term, we do want the 2.0 per cent international investment to be at a higher level, but we are taking an opportunistic approach, it must be subject to the right investment opportunity and at the right time.

“We are also watching the exchange rate very carefully in the sense that we want to invest at a time when the ringgit is actually strong.

“If you invest when the ringgit is weak, when it strengthens later your return will therefore be lower. That is something that we want to avoid,” Abdul Wahid told Bernama when appearing as a guest on Bernama News Channel’s Biztalk programme recently.

In terms of potential international market for both equities and real estate, he said the investment destination would be in more developed and stable markets where PNB was more familiar with and comfortable to invest in.

Meanwhile, on the RM500 million fund for the Indian community announced by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the 2018 Budget, he said PNB was happy to work with the special economic department for the Indian community to kick off the fund.

“In terms of the actual details (on the fund), it will be announced by the Socio-Economic Development Plan of the Indian Community (Sedic). Obviously, we are hopeful that it (the fund) can be implemented in January next year,” he added.

On the plan to reduce assets under management in cash to 15 per cent, Abdul Wahid said there was no timeline set for when the group would achieve that level as the reduction of cash very much depended on the availability of investment opportunities in all the other asset classes.

“This (reducing cash) is part of our effort to optimise our asset allocations and part of our objective to enhance our returns sustainably. Since August (this year) to-date, we have been reducing it (cash) to 19 per cent from 20 per cent.

“It is a gradual process and this fund has actually been deployed more into fixed income instruments, private investments, as well as real estate,” he said.


Sabah: Tourism industry players urged to work as a team

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : Local Business

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism industry players must work hand in hand to attract more high-end visitors to the state.
Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board, Joniston Bangkuai said that more tourism products need to be produced with the high-end travellers in mind.

“We need as many tourism products as possible and that’s why we are going strong in promoting rural tourism because I believe many of our tourism gems lie in the rural area,” said Joniston in his speech at the 20th Sabah Hospitality Fiesta 2017 closing dinner on Sunday evening.

Also present were Chairman of the fiesta, Syukur Salleh and Chairman of the Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah and Labuan Chapter, Thomas Moore Willie.

Joniston explained that there are many potential tourism products in the state that have yet to be identified, explored and polished.

“We have now heard of what’s called lung washing activity, whereby tourists go to the rural area for trekking a couple of days and they will be breathing fresh unpolluted air which can help clean your body system and this has been scientifically proven.

“In Kiulu we have a dedicated trail we called it Kiulu Riverside Lung Washing Trekking Trail, and we have seen very encouraging inquiries both from domestic and international visitors.”

He also disclosed that Sabah needed to have more hotels to accommodate large groups of tourists that will be coming to the state.

“In the recent Malaysia 2018 Budget, our Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) had announced some very generous allocation, including RMBillion as soft loans to those who are interested in building hotels and resorts.

“On top of that, our Prime Minister also had announced RM500 million to improve tourism infrastructure in the rural area to promote eco-tourism,” said Joniston, who is also the state Kiulu Assemblyman.

He said the state government was also looking into having more homestay to overcome the shortage of hotel rooms in Sabah.

“With the room shortage, we are now looking into an alternative solution which is to produce more homestays and we have received feedback from international visitors many of whom prefer to stay in villages,” he said. “So right now we are working together with Sabah Homestay Association and I think this can help alleviate the shortage of rooms and at the same time give the opportunity to the rural folks to also benefit from the growing tourism industry in Sabah.”


Prince Charles and wife visit S’wak Cultural Village

Posted on : 07-11-2017 | By : sabah today | In : National

KUCHING: Today, the cheerful atmosphere at the iconic Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) is somehow special and unique from any other day, when the ‘living museum’ on the foothills of the legendary Mount Santubong received British royalty as visitors.

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived at the SCV, some 35 km from here around 2.30pm, accompanied by the Minister-in-Attendance Datuk Seri S.K. Devamany, who is also Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister and Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth And Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah.

Upon arrival, the royal entourage was greeted by Sarawak Economic Development chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Hussain, SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang, SCV officials and feted to a brief welcoming performance by SCV dancers in their colourful traditional costumes.

The British royal couple then took a stroll along the wooden trail to explore the fascinating ‘village’ landscape the centre had to offer in its tireless hope to share the Sarawak experience to the world “all within a day”.

Their first stop was at the Rumah Iban or Iban longhouse to explore the interior of the traditional house of the largest ethnic tribe in Sarawak.

At the Iban longhouse with its unique home structure that is usually located away from the bustling city, it is customary for its visitors to be greeted by the longhouse maidens and young men performing traditional dances and playing ceremonial gongs as a welcome gesture to their humble house.

Prince Charles later had a private dialogue session with six community leaders from the Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Chinese and Malay communities at Persada Alam, while Camilla proceeded to the Dewan Lagenda to view the local craft exhibition.

The session lasted for some 15 minutes, and after that the royal couple proceeded to Rumah Penan, or the Penan hut, where Charles was clearly excited when he tried his skill at using the blowpipe.

The royal couple were then ushered to the lake in the middle of the ‘village” for a ride in a simple bamboo raft to get that “daily transportation in the remote area” experience.

The royal couple left the SCV at around 3.40pm to proceed with their tour of Kuching. They are expected to head for Penang later this evening.