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Iran positive on Malaysia’s request for palm oil import duty cut

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

TEHRAN: Iran’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has hinted  positively that Malaysia had the chance for a better differential import duty for palm oil.

Malaysia is negotiating a further reduction of duty on palm oil on existing tariff lines under a free trade agreement (FTA).

Currently, palm oil exported to Iran has a 40 per cent import tax imposed, whereas, other vegetable oils are only taxed 24 per cent.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said a bilateral discussion with Iran’s Agriculture Minister, Mahmoud Hojatti had yielded a positive response to the request to reduce the import duty.

“But we still have to convince Iran’s health department.

“Besides protecting Iran’s homegrown oils, we were told the higher duty was due to health concerns over palm oil,” he told Bernama.

Iran’s MOA is the authority responsible for the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of import tax for vegetable oils in the country.

Mah has been here from Feb 5 in leading the three-day Malaysian Economic and Technical Mission on Palm Oil, Timber and Rubber Products to Iran.

He said the challenge faced by palm oil in Iran was that of “misconception” as there had been several reports which conveyed a negative impression of it, especially from the health perspective.

These included a report by Iran’s local news agency on Sept 22, 2014, which quoted Dr Majid Hajifaraji, President of the Iranian Nutrition Society and Head of National Health and Food Technology Research Institute of Iran, as saying that palm oil increased the risk of cardio vascular diseases.

“But he (Dr Majid) had denied making such a statement,” said Mah.

He said palm oil was a healthy and nutritional oil and thus, the misconception about it in Iran needs to be addressed.

Malaysia has undertaken more than 150 nutritional studies by renowned research institutions globally that shows palm oil is a balanced and nutritional oil.

Red palm oil is a rich source of pro-vitamin A carotenoid that promotes a healthy lifestyle and it is also cost effective, with a balance of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

“We have now decided to be proactive in countering all the misconceptions.

That is why we launched the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s (MPOB) information booklet on the benefits of palm oil in Persian at the Malaysia-Iran Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS Iran 2017).

“We will continue to translate books on palm oil into Persian and engage with consumers here.

“Malaysia’s palm oil is currently exported to more than 160 countries and used in a multitude of applications.

“We assure that there are no varying qualities of Malaysian origin palm oil.

“Malaysian palm oil is also safe, healthy and being cultivated with good agricultural practices,” said Mah.

Meanwhile, led by the Minister, the team from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) paid a courtesy call on the Chairman of Iran’s Parliamentary Health Commission, Ali Nobakht Haghighi.

“We discussed the misconception regarding palm oil in Iran and he too responded positively.

“We suggested a research collaboration on palm oil with either an agency or university in Iran and a grant is being considered for this purpose,” Mah said.

Malaysia has also reopened the MPOB Regional Office in Tehran to provide special technical assistance in addressing the use of the commodity in the country.

“We have to work harder, as we are not only competing with other oils, but with Indonesia, which also visited Iran two months ago to promote its palm oil,” said Mah. — Bernama

(Taken from the Borneo Post)