Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF)
a recent forum organised by the Palm Oil Refiners Association of
Malaysia (PORAM), it was revealed that there was no moral case for
Western Environmental NGO (WENGO) campaigns against palm oil. Data
indicates that the agricultural land occupied by the world palm oil
industry is miniscule (1.56 per cent) compared with the total land
allocated to growing grains and oilseeds.
Oil palm is the main agricultural crop of major producer countries
such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it occupies 13 per cent and five
per cent of their land area respectively. Assuming that developing
countries are allowed to use part of their land area for agriculture and
plant the most profitable crops to provide employment, produce food and
generate income, the data shows that there is no excessive
over-exploitation of forests due to planting oil palm as a cash crop.
Nationally, both countries retain much higher percentages of forest as
compared with developed countries.
If WENGOs claim that global
warming is caused by loss of forests due to oil palm cultivation, it
would be useful to know that oil palm share of world agricultural land
is only 0.22 per cent. The share of loss of carbon stock (deforestation)
caused by oil palm compared with total global agriculture is thus
assumed to be 0.22 per cent. It is, therefore, morally unacceptable for
WENGOs to ask for palm oil-producing countries to reduce their share of
agriculture, which accounts for merely 0.22 per cent of the world’s
Even the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of global
agriculture of 17 per cent is considered small compared with the burning
of fossil fuel, which contributes 57 per cent of GHG emission. The
carbon footprint of oil palm cultivation globally is, therefore, 0.22
per cent times 17 per cent of the total or 0.0374 per cent of global GHG
emissions. This has no bearing on global warming, hence making it
immoral to blame oil palm as a significant contributor to global
Many other economic activities are responsible for the vast amount of
GHG emission. These activities are accepted as part of the economic
growth processes needed to sustain the world economy. Efforts to reduce
GHG emissions should be directed at these economic activities as they
are the main cause of GHG emission. Curtailing the expansion of oil palm
on the basis of its impact on global warming is, therefore,
scientifically unjustified as the contribution is only 0.0374 per cent
of global GHG emission.
If the loss of biodiversity is used as an
argument to discourage oil palm cultivation, then ample forest is being
conserved. The United Nations convention only requires 10 per cent of
the country’s land area to be kept as forest for conserving
biodiversity, and Malaysia has far exceeded this by committing 50 per
Despite the lack of convincing evidence to pin down the palm oil
industry against global warming or biodiversity loss, both producer
countries have given full cooperation to comply with the needs of
stakeholders and WENGOs to produce palm oil sustainably. They have fully
embraced the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to enable palm
oil to be certified to meet sustainability principles and criteria.
Indonesians have signed an agreement with Norway for a moratorium on
deforestation while the Malaysian government has repeatedly announced
its assurance of maintaining at least 50 per cent of its land area as
permanent forest. Deforestation thus appears to be a non-issue.
ensure a level playing field, it is timely that a similar certification
for sustainability be required for other oils produced by various
countries worldwide. Otherwise, it will be a clear reflection of the oil
palm industry being victimised by being asked to comply to
certification needs for sustainability when no scientific justification
exists to allow the world to benefit from global warming mitigation or
improved biodiversity. Without premiums given to RSPO certified palm
oil, it becomes a big burden for oil palm farmers to bear the added cost
of certification when their counterpart farmers producing soyabean or
rapeseed do not have to be certified for sustainability.
Certifying the other (low yielding and land inefficient) oilseed
crops for sustainability would at least contribute to a greater amount
of carbon emission reduction compared with oil palm, even though the
quantum of saving is still small compared with the carbon footprint of
fossil fuel and other agricultural activities.
clearly shows that there is no moral ground for WENGOs to campaign
against palm oil. Unless the WENGOs can quantify and show that there are
clear benefits relating to global warming or biodiversity improvements,
or economic premiums for sustainable certified palm oil, then it is
only a matter of time before producers realise that WENGOs only impose
the no deforestation condition on palm oil but do not bother to do
likewise on other low yielding crops which occupy vast areas of land.
Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron is CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council
Source : New Straits Times
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