Malaysia to buy more Indian sugar to resolve palm oil spat

Malaysia’s top sugar refiner said it will increase purchases of the commodity from India, which according to two sources is part of efforts to placate New Delhi amid an ongoing spat over palm oil imports.

MSM Malaysia Holdings Berhad will buy 130,000 tonnes of raw sugar from India worth RM200 million (US$49.20 million) in the first quarter, the company told Reuters. The company bought around 88,000 tonnes of raw sugar from India in 2019.

MSM is the sugar refining arm of the world’s largest palm oil producer, FGV Holdings, which is an unit of Malaysian state-owned Federal Land Development Authority or Felda.

The company did not cite the palm oil dispute as a reason for the increase in purchases, but the two sources, who are familiar with discussions between the company and the government on the purchase, said it was a bid to appease India, which has been urging Malaysia to reduce the trade deficit between the countries.

India, the world’s largest edible oil buyer, this month effectively halted Malaysian palm oil imports apparently in retaliation to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s comments criticising New Delhi over its policy on Kashmir.

India has been the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil for five years.

Malaysia’s exports to India were worth US$10.8 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, while imports totalled US$6.4 billion.

India is the world’s biggest sugar producer and the country’s exports have climbed because of a surplus and are expected to rise to a record 5 million tonnes for the 2019/20 season.

Malaysia imported 1.95 million tonnes of raw sugar in 2019, according to data from the International Sugar Organization on Refinitiv Eikon.


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