FAMA takes a shine to Agrobazaar online

The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA)’s online marketing platform Agrobazaar Online is making its way to becoming a permanent asset after what was meant to be temporary during the COVID-19 Movement Control Order.

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry YB Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah, as of April 30, the platform recorded sales amounting to RM1.8 million, of which RM693,000 were contributed by fresh produce segment while the rest came from agriculture-based products.

He expressed hope that more farmers would adopt the platform to market their products going forward. To date, there are 321 AKRs and 115 ABRs operating nationwide, to provide fresh produce and perishable goods to consumers.

Agrobazaar Online involves 530 entrepreneurs and it has received some 440,000 visitors as well as conducted 51,800 deliveries across the nation.

Perlis Agro Food-Valley 

FGV Holdings and its ancillary MSM Holdings are accelerating plans to develop a new agriculture growth area called the FGV Agro Food-Valley in Chuping, Perlis.

FGV revealed that the integrated development will adopt Industrial 4.0 applications within a land area of 4,400ha to cultivate high quality alternative crops in the four main agrofood sectors namely; cassava for starch production, MD2 premium pineapple, harum manis mangoes and animal feed production based on cassava by-product of starch and biomass.

According to Group CEO Datuk Haris Fadzilah Hassan, the development of the project would involve an investment of RM100 million within two years, and would fortify the national agro-food sector.

By the end of 2024, the cassava market is expected to register a 3.2 percent growth from 2019.

100,000 Tonne Supply

Between May and June, Malaysia contracted a record 100,000 tonnes of rice from India. As rival suppliers such as Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia placed temporary curbs on exports to save grain during the COVID-19 crisis, Malaysia’s purchase this year is nearly twice the average annual volume of rice Malaysia has imported from India in the last five years.

Industry officials suggest that the country’s exports could rise to 200,000 tonnes this year after the latest deals, and according to Nitin Gupta, Vice President of trading company Olam India’s rice business “That is making buying lucrative from India”.

India is now offering white rice for around US$390-US$400 per tonne compared with more than U$450 for other countries, exporters said.

Chinese Investors Hear Malaysia’s Call

According to a report by Juwai IQI, Malaysia ranked 6th among the most preferred destination for property buyers from China for the second consecutive year.

Georg Chmiel, Juawau IQI Executive Chairman, noted that Chinese real estate investors were drawn by several factors. These include the affordable standards of living, high quality of life, medical facilities as well as accessible educational institutions.

The report also revealed that enquiries on residential properties in Malaysia by Chinese buyers increased by 40.2 percent in 2019 compared with 2018 with Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Malacca City, Kota Kinabalu and Shah Alam as the top 5 markets.

"Programmes such as the MM2H have made Malaysia a popular investment and retirement destination. It has also been popular with Chinese citizens, who accounted for 30 percent of the more than 42,000 applications approved between 2012 and 2018."

Global Funds Circle

Global Funds are increasingly looking to invest in assets in Southeast Asia especially hotels with good capital appreciation and attractive yield for growth. These international funds, mostly from Europe and the USA tend to invest in good value assets, refurbish those properties and subsequently sell them at a profit. The sale of City Square Centre in 2007 by Asia Pacific Land Bhd (AP Land) to Australia’s Macquarie Global Property Advisors (MGPA) for RM680 million is a prime example.

South East Asia is the region of choice for these Global funds to invest in due to the negative interest rate regime on commercial banks.

“If the funds put their money in a commercial bank, there’s a negative interest rate. Further, the funds won’t go into North America or other continents as the assets are more expensive. They will look at Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Singapore are a favourite for bigger funds.” said Geh, FIABCI Malaysian Chapter President and Senior Partner of Raine & Horne.

Malaysia in particular is positively favoured by these funds given that assets are less expensive to acquire, as much as three times cheaper compared to properties in Singapore. The freehold title on properties in Malaysia is also a major draw for investors alone.

No Space for Old Tricks

Prospects for commercial assets have taken a downturn after the recent COVID-19 outbreak and the imposition of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Experts suggest that this has been exacerbated by existing problems such as the oversupply of office and retail space on the market.

Knight Frank Malaysia Corporate Services Executive Director, Teh Young Khean believes that the negative impact of the pandemic on business operations may prompt companies to consider downsizing, to reduce occupational costs, if available. This could lead to a dip in overall occupancy he notes.

Property Hunter director Elson Kho agreed and suggested that developers should consider converting their spaces into new concepts.

A recent poll by the Mall Association and Knight Frank found that 93 percent of retail owners want an online presence to complement their brick and mortar businesses.

Petrol Giant, Digital Filters

Award-winning AI and Big Data technology company Fusionex has secured a contract with a leading regional energy company that is listed on the Fortune Global 500. Under the agreement, Fusionex will provide analytical insights that enable the client to offer engaging customer experience as well as identifying actionable prospects within the client’s database.

According to Fusionex Group Chief Executive, Datuk Seri Ivan Teh, the client – which operates 1,000 petrol stations – has always been receptive towards implementing new innovations. He adds that Fusionex is excited to be part of their digital enhancement and transformation journey.

“By adopting a data-driven approach, we are confident that the client will be able to derive meaningful and actionable insights from data as it is a key competitive advantage,” Datuk Seri Ivan Teh noted.

The predictive and prescriptive nature of the digital platform will serve to provide a higher ROI based on personalisation strategies, optimised recommendations and a superior customer experience.

Infusing Digital DNA

China ICT giant Huawei has opened its first ASEAN Academy in the Asia Pacific region. Located in Malaysia, the Academy was launched by Minister of Multimedia and Communications YB Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah on 20 May.

According to Huawei, the Academy’s training programmes are designed to address talent gaps across three core pillars: ICT Industry Trend Guidance, Ecosystem Talent Enablement, and Skill Improvement. This is in order to provide a holistic approach to accelerating the country’s digital transformation journey.

The main training programme will run from 2020 till 2021 with specific focus on 5G, cloud and AI talent development, Huawei Mobile Service (HMS) developer talent improvement and Huawei ICT Academy & Competition.

Datuk Seri Saifuddin noted that the key to bridging talent gaps within the Malaysian digital ecosystem is to nurture and develop local talent to adapt to the ever-changing globalisation landscape.

"As we all adapt to this new normal of social distancing, the importance of having a strong digital network and infrastructure is more obvious now than ever."

Bringing Analytics to Power

National utility company, Tenaga Nasional Berhad has partnered with Singapore-based Envision Digital to deploy big data analytic applications for its large scale solar facility in Sepang.

Powered by Envision Digital’s proprietary AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) operating system EnOSTM, the collaboration is expected to improve energy productivity and operational efficiency across TNB Renewables (TRe) portfolio of energy assets.

TRe’s Managing Director, Mohd Yusrizal stated that the collaboration was indicative of the company’s pursuit to seek innovative solutions to accelerate growth in the renewable sector. He added that through the adoption of cloud-based solutions, TRe can monitor and analyse the solar farm’s performance remotely and achieve better returns on investment.

"TRe is also committed to adopting innovative solutions in building up our capability towards becoming a leading RE asset developer and asset manager within Malaysia and the region."

Going Big on the Sun

Malaysia’s energy regulator, the Energy Commission (Suruhanjaya Tenaga – ST) is set to conduct the fourth round of competitive bidding to plant-up Large Scale Solar (LSS) farms. With a total of capacity of 1,000MW on offer, this will make it the biggest exercise yet since the LSS bidding process started.

According to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, YB Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah,
the bidding process will commence on 31 May and run for a period of three months. He also noted that the higher quota offered is aimed at accelerating the nation’s electricity supply industry, which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The period to submit the documents is three months compared with six months to ensure the project implementation can start before the end of 2020” the Minister said, adding that further information would be issued by ST soon.

Petronas and Sarawak Come to Terms 

National oil and gas company, Petronas has successfully reached an agreement with the Sarawak State government over oil and gas business and sales tax on petroleum products in Sarawak.

Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin stated that in addition to the withdrawal of all legal proceedings over the sales and business tax on petroleum in Sarawak, Petronas through its subsidiaries, would make a full payment of sales tax imposed by the Sarawak government on petroleum products for 2019. This is calculated at 5 percent of total sales made, amounting to RM2 billion.

Petronas also agreed to withdraw its appeal of the Sarawak High Court’s decision on the application for Judicial Review 13 March 2020 against the imposition of the State Sales Tax (SST) by the Sarawak government. At the same time, the Sarawak State government will drop all civil litigation against Petronas for its failure to pay sales tax on petroleum products.

The Sarawak government also agreed to lower the sales tax on petroleum products provided under the State Sales Tax Taxable Goods and Rate of Tax) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order, 2018 (“Order 2018”)
based on future negotiations.

Industrialising Healthy Tech

The Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sengenics Sdn Bhd to develop ‘ImmuSAFE™’, the world’s first qualitative and quantitative COVID-19 test kit for industrial applications.

Sengenics is a Functional Proteomics company that leverages its patented KREX technology to discover autoantibody biomarker signatures to predict response to drugs and severe immune-related adverse events.

The MoU seeks to leverage on the collective strengths of the two organisations to develop and commercialise products, services, and technology. These are related to health management systems as well as high-throughput diagnostics for communicable diseases in industrial and commercial settings.

MARii Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Madani Sahari highlighted the importance of cross-sectoral initiatives between digital technologies and medical fields to lessen the impact of mass outbreaks on daily lives and essential industries.

Meanwhile, Sengenics Director, Johan Hafiz Iskandar expressed enthusiasm working with the MARii team to integrate diagnostics with cutting-edge, real-time healthcare solutions at industry and factory level.

Results generated by ImmuSAFE™ are fully quantitative allowing for the precise determination of antibody levels in an individual following infection.

B.Braun Gains Some Weight

German medical technology company
B.Braun has announced the expansion of its global test centre for medical devices in Penang. This expansion is expected to enhance the company’s testing capabilities for healthcare solutions to include intravenous systems, central venous puncture and pain control medical.

In a joint statement with the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), B. Braun said that in addition to tripling the volume of product testing to more than 600,000 scientific measurements per annum, the Global Test Centre would also conduct design validation, discovery and shelf life testing, as well as failure analysis.

"The nation’s legacy expertise in precision electronics has provided our workforce the requisite skills in quality management and precision. We trust that these qualities draw world leaders in healthcare including B. Braun to continuously embrace the abundant business opportunities in Malaysia today."