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Archive for June, 2014

Boustead Plantations debuts with mild premium

This is written by my colleague Zaidi Isham Ismail.

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Plantations Bhd opened at RM1.66, or 4 per cent premium above its offer price of RM1.60 when it made its debut on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

Boustead Plantations vice-chairman Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin said the group is poised for a bright outlook on aggressive expansion drive.

“As we move forward, we are implementing a three-pronged strategy, namely expansion via land acquisition, continuous improvement in best practices and dedicated research and development efforts.

“Over the next five years, we plan to increase our total planted area by 20,000ha from 70,991.2ha and acquire existing plantation estates and plantations reserve land, primarily in Malaysia,” said Lodin.

He said the company is open to re-entering Indonesia’s oil palm plantations again. 

Lodin said RM420 million of the gross proceeds from the initial public offering (IPO) will be used to part-finance the acquisition of 10,000ha of plantation land within the next three years.

The IPO is said to raise RM928 million from a public issue.

Another RM96 million will be used for replanting old trees with higher yielding seedlings, RM390 million to repay parent Boustead Holdings Bhd and RM22 million will be used for estimated fees and expenses for the IPO.

Lodin said Boustead Plantations intends to have a dividend policy of returning at least 60 per cent of profits to shareholders.

"I’m a soh chai …"

I was at the Palm Industry Labour: Issues, Performance and Sustainability Seminar 2014 organised by MPOB in Kuching recently. I met this very tall man who told me that he has been working for his employer for 30 years.

I gestured “Wow!” 

He squint his eyes and gave me a wry smile, “yea, I’m a soh chai (means dull-witted in Cantonese) for staying so long with the same company.”

It was my turn to squint my eyes. 

He laughed when I mentioned he seemed like a person who values yi hei (means loyalty in Cantonese).

I remember meeting this very tall man for the first time last year at the Incorporated Society of Planters’ (ISP) seminar and fellowship award ceremony held in Sibu. 

This very tall man and his colleagues flew in from Ipoh with their boss. As I listened to the speeches delivered from the stage, I also looked around the hall. 

I was intrigued with the way he interacted with his boss. In a matter of a split-second side glance from his boss, he knew what to do. 

This is testimony of his boss’ skillful ability in nurturing strong bonds of loyalty that is the “acid test” of leadership.

In progressive oil palm plantation companies, mutual trust and respect is normal practice. It’s not about paternalism but that of genuine partnerships. 

Employees are treated fairly, accorded the opportunities to delve professionally in meaningful career pathways. In return, employees owe the company their willingness to participate in business growth. 

Although I’m not privy to further interactions between the very tall man and his boss, I would take a guess … the following takes place.

1. He is not afraid to tell his boss.
He’s not a brownoser. He is most likely to tell his boss some ideas may not work or had made a mistake. He knows the boss values honesty more than “saving face”. He trusts his boss genuinely cares about doing what is best for the company and other colleagues.

2. He never criticises his boss in front of others.
He gives his boss the respect he expects to receive.

3. They disagree in private but he totally supports his boss’ decisions in public. 

Debunk the Junk

Gallivanting around the world in search of the latest global remedies, alternative health expert Dr. Bryce Wylde stopped by the Steven and Chris Show to share the facts about Malaysian red palm oil. “Natural medicine is still very buyer beware,” Wylde cautioned. “My goal is to debunk the junk.”

To accomplish his due diligence about Malaysian palm oil, Wylde visited Sabah, Malaysia’s Northern Province. There, he trekked through the rainforest. As he soaked in the humid tropics he experienced wildlife, flora and fauna flourishing in an balanced setting.

He also toured plantations and mills and discovered how palm oil is produced according to eco-friendly practices.

Wylde is a strong proponent of red palm oil’s health benefits. “Within the palm fruit you’ll have a nugget, the kernel, and that’s what they use in North America a lot for these puffy snacks,” he said, referring to palm kernel oil. “The outside, the mesocarp, is a brilliantly red-orange color and within it, it contains lots of beta carotene carotenoids, and a little-known form of vitamin E called tocotrienols.”

Wylde explained that tocotrienols have had a great impact on the scientific community. Dr. Chandan Sen, a well-known researcher, has been funded by the National Institutes of Health to study their effects on stroke and stroke recovery, cardiovascular disease, radiation exposure and cancer.

“There are just unbelievable effects of these tocotrienols that come from red fruit palm oil,” Wylde told Steven and Chris Show.

Below is another video of Wylde on Canada’s Breakfast Television. There’s even a few seconds of footage of him doing a yoga handstand while holding to the sides of the boat. Ha ha ha … he was imitating a cluster of cheeky proboscis monkey and orangutan hanging from the trees at the side of the river.

He tells Breakfast Television how he decided to conduct his own due diligence and see if there was really any wanton deforestation and alarming wildlife endangerment in Malaysia after he had been alerted by Greenpeace and Jane Goodall Institute.

He flies back to Canada and shares his discovery with concerned folks the best practices that is being carried out by oil palm farmers.

Malaysia’s palm oil industry adhered to more than 15 laws and regulations including the Land Acquisition Act 1960, Environmental Quality Act 1974, Environmental Quality (Clean Air Regulations) 1978, Pesticides Act 1974 (Pesticides Registration Rules), Occupational Safety and Health Act (1977), and Protection of Wildlife Act 1972. 

The industry is also complying with Hazard & Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements. Being sensitive and proactive on current environmental concerns, the industry is actively pursuing ISO 14000 standard series discussions and formulations notably on climate change, life cycle analysis (LCA), eco-labeling & Design for the Environment (DfE), environmental communications, and environmental management system.

Wylde then went on to list down the health goodness of the little-known variant of vitamin E called tocotrienols, found abundantly in red palm oil. He finds that this high antioxidant content in palm oil suggests that this cooking oil could be a potent “anti-cancer food”. There are also more recent medical studies suggesting that tocotrienols may help fight skin, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, colon, prostate, breast, and other cancers.

Wylde concludes the breakfast chat with a nutrition tip to Canadian viewers that one can take palm oil vitamin E supplements to neutralise oxidative stress after rigorous exercise.

Can you see the truth from the lies?

June 8, 2014 3 comments

The video above reflects reality on the ground in Indonesia. It is in response to lies told in the video below which is peppered with twisted half truths and exaggerated allegations … very typical in smear campaign videos made by mercenary activists; some of whom are methodically conniving and some .. laughably impressionable.

There are no “good” or “bad” environmental activists or business partners or policy-makers. Take a deeper look at this global intricate play of politics and greedy trade domination.

Take your time and decide for yourselves; What’s the truth? What are the facts and figures that can be scientifically verified? Who are telling lies?

To all oil palm planters … look around you and take a more discerning perspective. Some stakeholders may be in the same boat but they have been drilling holes. 

Maybe they succumb to selfishness, arrogance, revenge-seeking and greed. Select information are withheld to give a desired impression … a façade that is far from the truth. Why? money …. very big money.

Many people in the palm oil industry have yet to connect the dots. Every year, Malaysia exports some US$20 billion worth of palm oil to more than 150 countries. 

In negotiating the terms of  the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) with the USA — the lead negotiator of TPPA, it would the right thing to do for Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade & Industry policymakers to include the interests of oil palm planters and exporters. 

The same goes for Malaysia’s negotiation of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU.

Keen attention must be focused on dismantling disguised trade distortion measures oil palm planters are facing. After all, Malaysian government officials must remember that their salaries are derived from hard-pressed taxpayers’ money …. and guess what? Malaysia’s biggest taxpayers, on a sectoral capita basis, are the oil palm planters.

May the select few government officials, who considers serving the country an honourable duty, take the lead in fulfilling the most basic expectation of taxpayers; People First, Performance now.

Prevent risk of stroke with palm oil vitamin E

While you may know about your brain’s gray matter, did you also know that about 50% of your brain is made of white matter? Your brain’s white matter health affects how well it learns and functions. This is also the area of the brain most often affected by stroke. 

Results of a 2-year human clinical study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, three months ago, revealed that vitamin E tocotrienols derived from Malaysian palm oil is good for brain health as it weakens the progression of white matter lesions. 

This is the first study that provides solid evidence of tocotrienols’ neuro-protective benefits in humans.

White matter lesions (WMLs) are abnormal regions in the brain that can be detected by MRIs. They are often found in elderly people, and are associated with atherosclerosis in the small blood vessels of the brain, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. 

If the condition worsens, WMLs may result in cognitive impairment and dementia. “Injury to the brain’s white matter has been reported to be the major cause of functional disability in cerebro-vascular disease,” confirmed researcher Prof. Yuen Kah Hay, PhD.

Previous animal studies have reported that vitamin E tocotrienols derived from palm oil are capable of preventing damage to white matter during a stroke, and improved circulation to the damaged part of the brain after a stroke.

“This study is a very significant,” commented Kalyana Sundram, PhD, a member of the research team. “Many compounds have been shown to display neuroprotective effects in animal models of stroke. But they failed in human clinical trials. This may be because the human brain has so much more white matter (about 50%) than rats (about 10%).”

In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, leading tocotrienol researchers at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, followed 121 volunteers for two years. Each volunteer underwent MRIs to confirm the presence of WMLs. 

One group received 200mg of mixed tocotrienols twice daily for two years, while the others received a placebo. All volunteers were instructed to maintain their regular diets and physical activity levels. MRIs were performed at entry into the study and then repeated after one year and again after two years.

There was no statistical difference after the first year. However, results after year two were exciting. At two years of supplementation, the mean WML volume of the placebo group increased whereas those who received palm tocotrienols remained unchanged. 

The principal researcher, Prof Yuen concluded that supplementation with palm tocotrienols slows down the progression of white matter lesions.

Brain white matter lesions are not only linked to increased stroke risk but they are also known to be linked to development of other brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “Regular supplementation with palm tocotrienols could prove beneficial in the overall maintenance of good health,” said Dr. Sundram.

This study shows that taking palm tocotrienols daily may be an easy way to be proactive about your brain health, especially if you are at high risk for stroke.

CPO prices may climb on biodiesel demand

June 6, 2014 1 comment
NEARING BOTTOM: Weather-induced supply disruption can also play role, says expert

PETALING JAYA: PALM oil prices, which had been on a downtrend since mid-March, are likely nearing bottom as energy demand increasingly kicks in.

Yesterday, the third month benchmark for crude palm oil (CPO) futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Market traded RM15 lower to close at RM2,417 per tonne.

MPOC CEO Tan Sri Yusof Basiron (second from right) meeting with Meteorological Department head of climate centre Jailan Simon yesterday. With them are Ganling Sdn Bhd director Ling Ah Hong (right) and CIMB Futures Sdn Bhd broker representative Loh Kin Kien. NST photo by Halim Salleh

“Palm oil prices have been coming down for almost three months due to a build-up in supplies. However, the current level of around RM2,400 per tonne against Brent hovering around US$105 per barrel should become increasingly viable for palm biodiesel production. 

“The Indonesian and Malaysian governments are now able to meet biodiesel mandates with minimal subsidy,” said CIMB Futures Sdn Bhd broker representative Loh Kin Kien.

“Therefore, palm oil prices would be well supported in the region of RM2,300 per tonne but require a weather-induced supply disruption to significantly uplift prices,” he said after presenting his paper at the “Talk on El Nino — Effects and Implications 2014” organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), here, yesterday.

Also present were Meteorological Department head of climate centre Jailan Simon and Ganling Sdn Bhd director Ling Ah Hong. 

Jailan confirmed that the chances of El Nino materialising at the end of year are quite high. “The surrounding ocean is warming up. An El Nino is in the making.” When asked on the impact of this phenomenon, he replied it would most probably be weak to moderate.

“The full brunt of El Nino is mostly likely to be felt in the first quarter of 2015. We could see impact in Sabah, northern Sarawak and the east coast of the peninsula if the El Nino’s impact is moderate to strong,” he added.

A severe El Nino would lead to prolonged dry spells in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where 88 per cent of the world’s oil palm is grown. Dry and hot weather hinders growth of leaves and fruit of oil palm trees, thereby curbing yields. 

During the first four months of this year, local CPO production totalled 5.84 million tonnes, 4.4 per cent more than 5.59 million tonnes a year ago. 

Ling thinks that fresh fruit bunch yields would slide in the second half of the year and is forecasting Malaysia’s CPO  output for the year to only add up to 19.30 million tonnes, relatively flat from last year’s 19.22 million tonnes.

His prediction is well below that of  Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s forecast of 19.52 million tonnes. Ling sees CPO prices rising again to as high as RM2,900 per tonne provided Brent trades at current level of between US$95 to US$110 per barrel.

High growth potential in biogas industry

WASTE-TO-ENERGY PROJECTS: Bioeconomy set to hit RM150b target by 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIAN Biotechnology Corp (Biotech Corp) targets Malaysia’s biogas industry to achieve RM20 billion in gross domestic product by 2020 from the current nascent state of a handful of biogas plants in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah supplying power to the national grid.

“We think Malaysia’s bioeconomy is able to achieve a target of RM150 billion by 2020 and the biogas sector should make up 15 per cent contribution at RM20 billion,” said Biotech Corp chief operating officer Razwin Sulairee Hasnan Termizi.

“We need to capitalise on our natural resources to value add on our bioeconomy initiatives. 

“Biotechnology works at the molecular genetic level in agriculture, healthcare, environment and industry,” he said after the opening of the 3rd Biogas Asia Pacific Forum, here, yesterday. 

Biotech Corp is the government agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation tasked to promote commercialisation of biotechnology projects. It sees biotechnology as the main driver of a bioeconomy.

At its simplest, a bioeconomy describes a future in which people use renewable resources for biofuel and bio-plastics. Instead of an economy dependent on the planet’s depleting fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal, one can convert agricultural by-products and livestock waste into electricity, fuels, plastics or even protein-packed animal feed. 

Nurturing a bioeconomy by leveraging on our natural resources, such as oil palm biomass, will ultimately propel Malaysia’s socio-economic position to greater heights.

Throughout Malaysia, plantation companies have started the ball rolling by capturing greenhouse gas emanating from mill sludge and turning it into clean energy by investing in biogas plants. These anaerobic digester tanks containing friendly bacteria feed on the organic matter to produce flammable gas and fertiliser.

This flammable gas called bio-methane can be compressed into tanks and fed into gas-powered taxis, public buses and even cooking gas in the kitchen. Alternatively, bio-methane can be fired into engines that generate electricity for Tenaga National Bhd’s national grid.

The benefits of waste-to-energy projects by plantation companies are extensive. Since mill sludge is converted into biogas and fertiliser, there is no chance of it entering rivers and polluting them. While the organic fertiliser is ploughed back into the fields, greenhouse gas extracted from the biogas plants is fed into a combined steam and power plant at the mill to generate electricity for the surrounding community in this estate.

Biogas operators which can supply big amounts of electricity are encouraged to hook up to the national grid. Those which are successful applicants with Sustainable Energy Development Authority are paid a basic 32sen per KWh, as stated in the feed-in tariffs.

Malaysia is targeting 500 biogas plants by 2020. This initiative is expected to generate about RM2.9 billion in gross national income and create 2,000 jobs by 2020.