Our day began at the U.S. Grains Council office in Kuala Lumpur where we were briefed on Malaysian agriculture markets and trade agreements with the U.S.
Chris Rittgers, agricultural attaché for Malaysia and Singapore for the USDA, gave a presentation regarding leading industries in Malaysia and their economic growth from a developing country to a developed country. Mr. Rittgers also enlightened us on many career options that we have in agriculture after college, especially in the international sector.
Afterwards Adel Yusupov, regional director for Southeast Asia for the U.S. Grains Council, gave a very detailed presentation on current markets in the entire Southeast Asia region. Adel has traveled with us since our arrival in Vietnam and has been an amazing asset to our team. One of the biggest lessons we learned was the growth in halal products in Malaysia. Halal is a religious process used by the Muslim culture in terms of agricultural processing and has allowed Malaysia to become a global leader in halal products around the world.
We spent a majority of the afternoon at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board outside of Kuala Lumpur. Palm oil production provides over one million jobs in Malaysia and is the country’s number one export around the world (40 percent of the global market.) While palm oil has played a controversial role for environmentalists over the past few years, the members of the MPOB that we met with confirmed that the Malaysian government was protecting its remaining forested land and was instead working to increase palm oil yields in current plantations. The most interesting fact was that farmers use almost every single part of the palm tree in processing, not just the oil, and palm products are found in almost every product you can think of.
The evening was spent visiting downtown Kuala Lumpur where we experienced the busy yet exciting night markets. Our bargaining skills have definitely improved over the past two weeks! Tomorrow we are visiting a wet market, large container port, and attending a reception event with the U.S. Grains Council.
Margery Magill, University of California-Davis
Breanne Brammer, University of Missouri