Plans to step up the use of 20% palm oil in biodiesel in Sabah and Sarawak’s transport sector will be delayed due to curbs on movement imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the Borneo Post reported on 20 May.

Malaysian primary industries and commodities minister Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the programme would be held back until 1 September in Sarawak and 1 January 2021 in Sabah, rather than April and August 2020 respectively.

“The date to implement the programme in Peninsula Malaysia, previously set on 15 June 2021, has not changed,” he told the media after meeting with representatives from petroleum companies to discuss current issues and the B20 implementation plan.

B20 biodiesel is a blend of 20% palm methyl esters and 80% petroleum diesel. The programme is a government initiative which is expected to use 534,000 tonnes/year of palm oil.

The programme is being introduced in phases and was first rolled out in January and had been set to be fully implemented across the country by mid-June 2021.

Mohd Khairuddin said the delay in the programme’s implementation was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s Movement Control Order (MCO), which had led to in constraints in plans to upgrade 35 blending depots needed to supply the product.

Malaysia has had one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia, with around 7,800 cases and 115 deaths.

To slow down the spread of the virus, the country had imposed a lockdown on 18 March under the MCO, which was extended for a fourth time to 9 June 2020, with a gradual easing of lockdown measures until then.