Malaysia and Indonesia may file a complaint to the
World Trade Organisation to protect the growth of the oil palm industry
that supports tens of millions of livelihoods
Malaysia and Indonesia may file a complaint to the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) over protectionist measures, disguised as
environmental concerns and imposed by developed nations and activist
groups, against the oil palm industry.
“I’ll be in Indonesia
later this month. Although non-tarriff trade barriers are not on the
official agenda, I will explore this topic with my counterpart,”
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok
“We need to find out more about the legal definition of
‘trade barriers’. We need to be sure what constitutes a substantive
complaint before we make a joint decision,” he told reporters after
opening the Indonesia-Malaysia Palm Oil Meeting in Kuching, Sarawak,
One such law in Europe that blatantly discriminates
against the import of palm oil is the European Union (EU) renewable
The directive seeks to restrict the import of palm oil for biofuel use
in Europe in favour of the heavily subsidised home-grown rapeseed oil.
Adopted last year, the directive will take effect at the end of this
year, which means member states must draft their laws based on it.
Dompok’s views echoed that of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir
Mohamad, who, six months ago at the 2009 Malaysia-Indonesia Economic
Seminar, had called on leaders of both countries to be more vocal in
their stand at international forums.
“If both Indonesia and
Malaysia speak out with one voice, it will be more effective. This way,
both countries will earn the respect of others,” he said.
to the press conference, Dr Lulie Melling, director of the Tropical
Peat Research Laboratory Unit at the Sarawak Chief Minister’s
Department, presented her studies on peat agriculture.
as 2005, findings on greenhouse gas emission from oil palm planting on
tropical peat-land published in peer-reviewed environmental scientific
journals, “Tellus” and “Soil Biology Biochemistry”, indicated that the
planting of oil palm trees on peat soil was not as polluting as largely
Oil palm trees planted on peat soil actually emit
less carbon dioxide than those in old forests as there are less fresh
litter and root biomass for microbes to feed on and contribute to
Also present at yesterday’s event were
representatives from the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA),
Indonesian Palm Oil Association, or Gapki, Association of Plantation
Investors of Malaysia in Indonesia, Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners
Association (Soppoa), Felda Group, Malaysian Estate Owners Association,
and East Malaysia Planters Association.
Soppoa chairman Datuk
Hamed Sepawi, in addressing the 200-strong crowd of planters and
government officials, highlighted that the oil palm industry is a
national economic security crop for both Malaysia and Indonesia.
“The trees are planted by tens of millions of oil palm growers in both
countries. At the same time, this nutritious edible oil feeds billions
of people in China, India and other developing nations. The future
growth of the oil palm industry is in Sarawak and Indonesia,” he said.
In the last two years, Malaysia earned between RM50 billion and RM65
billion a year from palm oil exports. The industry also constitutes up
to one-third the value of Malaysia’s gross domestic product.
Malaysia’s RM65 billion annual palm oil exports support some two million
jobs and livelihoods along the sprawling palm oil value chain.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s data also show that more than 330,000
smallholder families, working on 1.6 million hectares, produce a quarter
of the nation’s palm oil exports.
Gapki leader Purboyo Guritno
concurred with Hamed. The Indonesian Palm Oil Commission indicated that
the republic earns US$10 billion (RM32 billion) annually from palm oil
“Indonesia and Malaysia must take a more proactive
approach in protecting the growth of the oil palm industry that supports
tens of millions of livelihoods,” he said.
Purboyo said that
oil palm planters had long been victimised and discriminated by trade
barriers disguised as environmental protection, levied by developed
nations like those in the EU and green activists.
“We need to
find ways to improve the collation and dissemination of scientific data
on peat agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions so that everybody can
better distinguish facts from false claims,” he said.
Source : Business Times