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Growing with demand

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WHEN former medical practitioner Datuk Dr Jessie Tang switched from medicine to entrepreneurship, she was fully prepared to face the challenges that come with running a successful business.

She was already getting frowns from family and friends for her decision to leave a highly respected position. Worse, she was moving into the oil palm business which is essentially male dominated and for sure not glamorous.

But Dr Tang is a tough nut to crack and well known for her grit and determination. She conquered her new challenges in no time.

Still, the 47-year-old businesswoman has to admit that she has now found herself in a tough situation – the uncertainty of the commodity prices over the past one year.

Fortunately, as oil palm development is a long-term business, Dr Tang believes there needn’t be much concern over the current dip in the price of crude palm oil (CPO).

“I know it has not been an easy year but I am confident that things will be better. The demand will grow,” she says.

According to Kedah-born Dr Tang, CPO prices will increase in time as its demand grows in tandem with world population growth and its need for sufficient food and energy.

“The expanding global population, which stands at seven billion currently, is expected to exceed nine billion by 2035 and this means there will also be a demand for palm oil for cooking,” Dr Tang notes, adding that this will set the motion for CPO price increase.

Says Dr Tang, who founded her company, East West One Consortium, in 2004, she decided to venture into oil palm development because it holds great promise in spite of the occasional downturn.

“Prices of CPO have fluctuated annually over the past 50 years but it has also been on an upswing trend.”

Oil palm cultivation, harvesting and trading are the core activities of her company.

Given Dr Tang’s foresight and hard work, the Sabah-based East West One Consortium is currently the biggest oil palm investment scheme and plantation development company in terms of land size in Malaysia.

The company has definitely come a long way from the early days when Dr Tang, who runs it with her husband Dr Tan Eng Heong, had to go deep into the jungles of Sabah to check out potential areas suitable for cultivating oil palm.

“There were even times when I had to set up camp in the jungle and spend the night there,” she recalls.

On Sabah as the choice location for her plantations, Dr Tang says the state had many favourable factors for oil palm to thrive such as fertile soil as well as sufficient rainfall and sunshine.

“This ensures higher yields and oil extraction rates, Dr Tang notes, adding that Sabah is also an ideal location as there is already an existing culture of plantation manage­ment, labour force and support services there.

Her company’s next venture, says Dr Tang, is to set up East West One Consortium’s own mill, which is scheduled to be ready in the next couple of years.

“We are now sending the palm oil fruits to a third party mill and that’s why we need to open up our own,” she says.

While strengthening her business and taking it to greater heights, Dr Tang also ensures her company complies with all inter­national sustainable development policies.

The company’s employees, especially those manning the plantations, have also been trained to do the necessary to protect the natural flora and fauna in the area.

“One of the measures we have initiated is to provide riparian reserves near rivers and streams as well as forest buffers within our plantation,” she says.

Dr Tang explains that riparian reserves and forest buffers ­functioned as habitats for flora and fauna as well as provided an important corridor for wildlife.

So, how does the mother of two sons, aged 15 and 18, relax and keep cool despite the heavy ­schedule of running her company?

She quickly quips, the secret to remaining cool and stoic in a challenging career is to take care of one’s spiritual needs.

“I am quite a spiritual person and meditate an hour every day as well as spend half an hour doing yoga and another half an hour reading spiritual books,” shares Dr Tang, who is a follower of the renowned women-dominated Hindu religious group, the Brahma Kumaris.

Source : The Star Online

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