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Forum on Biodiesel Investment Opportunities in Biodiesel in POIC Lahad Datu

Ewon: Seize Palm Oil Opportunities

KOTA KINABALU, Fri. (May 5, 2006) -- Biodiesel is the fuel of today, and palm oil-based downstream industries will anchor Sabah's economic future, a biodiesel forum was told today.

Speaking in front of about 300 participants at the Forum on Investment Opportunities in Biodiesel in POIC, Lahad Datu, the Minister of Industrial Development, Datuk Ewon Ebin urged Sabah investors to seize the many palm oil-based investment opportunities.

"We want to optimize the estimated 100 billion ringgit economic value of the oil palm produced from our fertile land".

"Through these efforts, we want to create jobs for our graduates and skilled workers. We want to be able to develop our domestic capacity we want to put Sabah in the forefront of palm oil downstream development," he said in his keynote address at the Forum organized by state-owned POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd.

POIC Sabah, set up last year, is tasked with developing the palm oil industrial cluster in Lahad Datu to take advantage of Sabah's position as the top palm oil producer in Malaysia. Sabah has about 1.3 million hectares of oil palm plantation with an annual output of over 5 million tonnes of crude palm oil in 2005.

Biodiesel can be produced by using a variety of vegetable oils such as palm oil, soyabean, rapeseed, canola, sunflower, etc as feed stock

The speaker at the Forum was Ir. Vincent Tan, a professional engineer who is consulting for POIC Sabah's Lahad Datu project. His 40-minute talk traced the history of alternative fuel development, the growth and prospects of biodiesel in the global market, risks and prospects, and the comparative advantages of POIC Lahad Datu.

The Forum participants included players in Sabah's oil palm industry, potential investors, academics and representatives from non-governmental organizations.

Datuk Ewon made a case for Sabah going full throttle in palm oil downstream development by recalling how Sabah missed many opportunities to industrialize its timber and cocoa sector, both of which had declined sharply over the years.

He said Sabah ought to have learnt from the slip-ups in the past and be committed to developing the palm oil downstream industries, particularly biodiesel.

Palm oil, he said, is now the biggest revenue contributor in Sabah, having overtaken timber.

It would be unwise, he added, for Sabah to continue to export raw commodities like palm oil, like it did logs and cocoa beans during the timber and cocoa boom.

Meanwhile, Tan's talk expounded on the advantages of locating biodiesel plants at POIC Lahad Datu, saying that the site is located near to major oil palm plantations and mills. Furthermore, POIC Lahad Datu is being developed as a cluster in which various industries provide synergistic support for each other, often resulting in reduction of capital investment and higher productivity. The cluster, located near the Lahad Datu port, is also endowed with a natural harbour whose 20-meter draft can accommodate sizable ocean-going bulk freighters

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