Subject: Malaysia's Felda poised to export expertise to Timor Leste

Business Times (Malaysia)

March 31, 2004, Wednesday

Felda poised to export expertise to Timor Leste

BYLINE: By ZAIDI ISHAM ISMAIL

FEDERAL Land Development Authority (Felda) may soon export for the first time its plantation management expertise to Timor Leste as part of its diversification plan to become a global player.

Felda group chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Yusof Noor said the land agency was also approached by several African countries to share its knowledge in planting and growing oil palm.

"We are ready to go to Timor Leste as soon as we get the clearance from Wisma Putra (Foreign Affairs Ministry)," Mohd Yusof told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Backed by its 50 years' experience, Mohd Yusof said the land development agency is ready to venture overseas. He said Felda is able to help other nations develop their own oil palm plantation sectors.

Last October Felda offered the West African state of Sierra Leone and Timor Leste assistance which included sending officers to help in planting of oil palm and plantation management.

He said Felda will also share its expertise by training officers from interested countries on the implementation of other projects related to oil palm.

On Felda's operations, Mohd Noor said the country's biggest plantation concern in terms of landbank is expected to improve its earnings in the financial year ending December 2004, given the high crude palm oil prices of late.

On market for its products, Mohd Yusof said Felda has identified Bosnia Herzegovina and Turkey as potential new markets to complement its traditional markets such as China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and several West Asian countries such as Iraq, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Syria and Yemen.

The Felda Group, which has 40 wholly- or partly-owned subsidiaries as well as joint-venture firms, registered earnings of between RM4 billion and RM5 billion annually with net profit of between RM400 million and RM500 million a year.

On the planned flotation of Felda Plantations Sdn Bhd, Mohd Noor said all details have been sorted out. The proposal is waiting for the Cabinet's approval.

Yusof said Felda has no plans to venture into the property business like its private sector counterparts such as Golden Hope Development Sdn Bhd and IOI Properties Bhd.

"We have no intention to compete with these companies as it is not Felda's priority. We feel that it might become a liability one day. However, Felda is looking at opportunities to buy more land," he said.

Mohd Yusof said Felda has no plans to open up new land schemes on its own but is planning to do so with the cooperation of state governments and agencies.

Felda is also venturing into the herbal products business as a new alternative source of income to complement the oil palm business.

"We feel there is so much potential in this line as the market is worth RM40 billion globally," he added.

Felda is preparing its Felda Herbal City in Pahang dedicated to herbal products from planting to processing and marketing, at a 405ha with an initial investment of RM10 million.

Set up in July 1956, Felda has a total landbank of 800,000ha, of which 440,000ha are owned by smallholders. It manages 275 land schemes nationwide and owns 72 oil palm mills and 4 refineries.


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