Positive response from Iran on palm oil duty cut


Iran's agriculture ministry has hinted that Malaysia had a 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% import tax while other vegetable oils are only taxed 24%.

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 agriculture ministry implements, monitors and enforces import tax for vegetable oils in the country.

Mah has been in Tehran since 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 (MPOB)'s information booklet on the benefits of palm oil 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.


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