Thursday, 18 September 2008

Malaysia clears misconceptions on palm oil

As can be seen, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have gone on a charm offensive to try to divert attention away from what they are doing to rainforests and orangutans. For them, like so many people, what they read about themselves is nothing more than an inconvenient truth.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Malaysia clears misconceptions on palm oil

LONDON: The World Sustainable Palm Oil Conference staged here on Sept 15, provided a window of opportunity for both Malaysia and Indonesia to clear misconceptions on the development of the palm oil industry, said the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Peter Chin.

“The conference was indeed timely as over the past few years, the palm oil industry has been confronted over issues concerning the environment, in particular deforestation, loss of biodiversity and the threat to wildlife.

“These have been complemented lately with concerns on carbon emission from the development of peatland.

“All these have projected a wrong image of the industry to consumers around the world,” he said at a joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart Dr Anton Apriyantono after a dialogue session with participants of the conference.

The conference was jointly hosted by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli), the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

According to Chin, the conference entitled ‘The Road Ahead for Sustainable Palm Oil’, also provided an opportunity to highlight the current progress of the industry in its quest towards achieving sustainable palm oil production.

“The response from the industry players was good. But to my surprise, not many non-governmental organisations were present as there were only eleven,” Chin said.

Despite much progress having been made towards the sustainable development of palm oil, the critics have been accusing the industry of not being environment friendly.

Even the use of palm oil for biodiesel has not been spared the criticism, though it is now a principal source of “green energy”.

Chin said it was most unfortunate that the allegations had affected the image of palm oil and the producer countries concerned, namely Malaysia and Indonesia as the worlds largest producers and exporters of the commodity.

He said policy makers, especially in the European Union (EU) and other developed nations had unnecessarily put Malaysia’s export market at risk.
The EU, which is the advocator for biofuels, is now drafting a new directive on the use of renewable energy.

“What worries the Malaysian government is that the pressure for strict sustainability requirements in the EU as well as in the United States may lead to the imposition of policies that impede the palm oil trade.

“All these may contravene the principles of the WTO and free trade. While we admit that there are always opportunities ahead to improve the palm oil industry, we do not agree that it be singled out as being responsible for environmental degradation,” he added.

Also present at the press conference was the Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohammed, the Member of Parliament for Stone, United Kingdom, William Nigel Paul Cash, MPOC chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, MPOC chairman Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian and MPOB chairman Datuk Sabri Ahmad.