Malaysia’s palm oil shipment to Rotterdam Port, thegateway to Europe has fallen by an average of 12 per cent every year
since 2006’s peak of 1.7 million tonnes.
This year, it is poised to shed another 30 per cent to 900,000 tonnes.
the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) conference last month,
environment activist Wetlands International called for an address of
“the alarming emissions from forest and peat swamp areas’ conversion
into oil palm plantations”.
non-governmental organisation (NGO) alleged that “the continuous
emissions caused by drainage of carbon rich tropical peatsoil in
Indonesia and Malaysia are enormous.”
At the end of the meeting,
Wetlands lamented that its attempts to insert a Greenhouse Gas Emission
criterion had been frustrated by members representing Indonesian and
Malaysian oil palm planters.
In an interview with Business Times, Malaysian Palm
Oil Association chief executive Datuk Mamat Salleh shed light on the
ulterior motive and double standards deployed by the NGOs to the
detriment of the global palm oil industry.
Under RSPO, palm oil has to be sustainably-produced. On the other hand,
other vegetable oils like canola and soyaoil only need to be
“Did you know that the term ‘responsibly-produced’ allows for genetically modified oilseeds?” Mamat questioned.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and Wetlands International
claim oil palm cultivation cause tropical deforestation. But these NGOs
are silent on soyabean, rapeseed and sunflower farming causing
deforestation in temperate countries.
“How come these NGOs do
not lobby for reforestation in Europe and the US? At the very least
they should campaign for 10 per cent of the 100 million hectares
planted with soyabean, rapeseed and sunflower to be with replanted with
trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the polluted air there.
“How come these NGOs do not tell their own governments to replant
forest and restore the habitats for racoons, beavers, frogs, wild
foxes, deers and bears?” Mamat posed more questions.
Nations Copenhagen Climate Summit, scheduled to run from December 7 to
18, will see 192 countries meet to set targets on carbon emissions.
the summit draws near, Greenpeace and its affiliates have become more
vociferous for a moratorium on the forest and peatland in Malaysia and
Without providing scientific evidence that can be
verified, these pressure groups claim oil palm planting on peatland
pollutes the air to the extent that this agriculture activity makes
Indonesia the world’s third biggest polluter, after the US and China.
Surprisingly, there is no such call by these NGOs for a moratorium on
cars, ships, airplanes, oil exploration, coal mining and petrochemical
processing industries, which all emit more carbon dioxide to the air
“Isn’t it ironic that the carbon emission
of 3.5 tonnes from one tonne of depleting fossil fuel is tolerated
while biofuels, which have the advantage of being renewable, are
abhorred even though they are proven to be 35 to 65 per cent less
polluting than fossil fuels?” Mamat asked.
forest clearing, industrial revolution in developed countries have long
emitted the large portion of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere now.
“These Europe-based NGOs just close two eyes to unsustainable farming
in their home countries. When we questioned their silence, they concede
with their own governments’ view that it was their grandfathers’ right
to clear-cut forest for industrialisation.
“But what about our grandchildren’s rights to progress and prosperity?” Mamat asked.
On the one hand, Malaysia and Indonesia face threats from Greenpeace,
FOE and Wetlands activists who are skilful at propaganda to impose
moratorium on tropical forest and peatland.
On the other hand, global vegetable oils trade thrives best when markets open up for free competition and more respect is accorded to representative governance.
When placed together – it doesn’t take a PhD in economics or political
science to conclude that the true motive of these NGOs is to put up
trade barriers against tropical nations’ palm oil to benefit rapeseed
and sunflower farmers who are heavily subsidised by the EU government.
In a separate interview, Malaysian Estate Owners Association (MEOA)
president Boon Weng Siew explained how Malaysia’s small and mid-sized
oil palm estates are already practising sustainable oil palm planting
by virtue of compliance with the country’s environmental and labour
Established in 1931, MEOA represent 153 small and medium-sized estates of more than 40 hectares.
All oil palm planters, whether smallholders or estate owners, comply to
the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the Environmental Impact
Assessment Order 1987.
“We prepare and submit EIA reports for
agriculture land development covering an area of 500 hectares or more.
Open burning of plant residue is prohibited,” he said.
from eco-friendly laws, oil palm planters observe the Employment Act,
the Industrial Relations Act and the Minimum Standard of Housing and
Estate owners are not required, by law, to
provide accommodation, schools, clinics and places of worship but many
of MEOA members do so as part of their corporate social
“However, when accommodation for workers is
provided, the site and buildings must comply with the Minimum Standard
of Housing and Amenities Act 1990. The clinic also has to comply with
the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998,” Boon said.
To date, Malaysia’s oil palm plantations span across 4.5 million hectares.
To a question on Greenpeace and FOE’s claim that monoculture oil palms
are unable to support wildlife diversity, making the estates sterile,
Boon replied, “That is not true. Shrubs, ferns, fungi and herbs,
monkeys, birds, wild fowls, squirrels, rats and snakes flourish in oil
Plants, mammals, insects, reptiles and
birds have adapted to the oil palm ecosystem. “Oil palm estates are the
green lungs that generate oxygen which the developed part of the
country breathes, fulfilling many of the rainforest functions,” he
Boon also said planters today do not just plant, harvest
and sell. “Oil palm planters are now more aware of the whole supply
chain from the point of applying fertiliser to milling. We are also
familiar with traceability, food safety, environmental and social
responsibilities,” he said.
“Malaysia’s palm oil production
is already sustainable by virtue of compliance with national
environmental and labour laws,” Boon added.
Source : Business Times by Ooi Tee Ching