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Sabah-born olive farmer hails exemption
Published on: Thursday, June 01, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah-born organic olive farmer Elizabeth Liew (now Elizabeth Poggiagliolmi), 53, who owns the Poggiagliolmi Olive Farm in Tuscany, Central Italy, welcomed the announcement of the six-month exemption of the Cabotage policy in Sabah and Sarawak, scheduled to be implemented on June 1.

The exporter of Poggiagliolmi extra virgin organic olive oil had been at the mercy of the policy since she and her husband Elio Poggiagliolmi, an Italian geophysicist, decided to go commercial on a big scale in 2010.

"My shipment of olive oil to Malaysia incurs a higher cost because under the Cabotage policy, foreign vessels are not allowed to carry cargo from one domestic port to another domestic port within Malaysia.

I look forward to the abolition of the policy after the exemption ends. That way, it will bring down the price of my product," she told Daily Express.

According to Poggiagliolmi, it takes one to three months for a consignment of 1,000 bottles (500ml) to reach their respective destinations.

"There is direct shipment from Italy to Singapore (which takes one month) but not to Malaysia.

First, from Italy, the international vessel goes to China (taking one month) where it unloads its cargo, before continuing its journey to Port Klang (Malaysia). That will take another month.

"And from Port Klang, my consignment for Sabah will be loaded onto a Malaysian vessel for transportation to Kota Kinabalu. It will take one more month for the shipment to arrive at its destination," she pointed out.

Such double handling explains why a bottle of Poggiagliolmi extra virgin organic olive oil (500ml) imported from Italy costs as much as RM90.

"Apart from product registration and labelling fees as well as sea freight charges, I have to pay a tax imposed on transhipment goods by the Malaysian government. All these contribute to the higher price of my product.

Which is really sad. I feel sorry for the people of Sabah," she lamented.

Poggiagliolmi, a mother of two grown-up children, is in town to promote the Poggiagliolmi brand with the tagline - extra virgin deliciously organic olive oil (what a mouthful!). Currently, it is available in Kuala Lumpur (300 bottles), Singapore (500 bottles) and the Merdeka Supermarket here (200 bottles). There are two shipments to Singapore, one at the beginning of the year and the other at the end of the year.

When met at the "Meet the Producer" event held at the Merdeka Wine Shop, Saturday, she was entertaining lovers of olive oil and potential consumers with an array of dishes she had prepared using olive oil.

"We can use olive oil for cooking. It has a medium smoke point. It is not true to say that olive oil has a high smoke point. In fact, it is being promoted in hotels and boarding schools in Singapore," she said in dispelling doubts.

Meanwhile, Carrie Fong, the owner of Merdeka Supermarket, said there is a growing demand for Poggiagliolmi extra virgin organic olive oil despite its costliness.

"Initially, I didn't order much for the local market because it is rather pricey but people come back for more.

At one stage, customers couldn't wait that long so I had no choice but to get the quantity couriered from Italy," she said, adding it takes only a week to arrive.

Carrie is, however, worried over a recent media report that the exemption of the Cabotage policy in Sabah and Sarawak will only last for six months, and that the policy might be here to stay if the exemption if proven to be ineffective. "If that happens, my hopes of a lower price for Poggiagliolmia extra virgin organic olive oil in KK will be dashed," she said.

The Cabotage Policy for Malaysia was enforced on January 1, 1980 generally to restrict the carriage of goods and passengers and the provision of services between two Malaysian ports to Malaysian vessels only. - Mary Chin

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