Palm oil growers, buyers and food companies have been urged to walk away from the sustainable palm oil roundtable process by a leading expert on non-governmental organisation (NGO) campaigns against industries.
Don D’Cruz, a Malaysian-born specialist who has spent a decade fighting NGO campaigns on a whole range of issues, said although the roundtable process was “well-meaning” and “good-intentioned”, it was probably going to cause a great deal of damage to the palm oil industry in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
“The roundtable process has provided western NGOs with an invaluable opportunity to conduct indepth research into the industry in countries like Malaysia,” D’Cruz said.
“Basically they have a better idea as to how to go about destroying the industry in Malaysia because of the intelligence they have obtained,” he said.
Speaking from Melbourne where he is based, D’Cruz said the roundtable had been created out a desire by western food multinationals to head off what they viewed as an inevitable campaign on palm oil but he said that it would end up “helping their self-stakeholders as the expense of their real stakeholders”.
D’Cruz said processes like the roundtable were built on flawed premises because “the more you give western NGOs, the more they want”.
“Western environmental NGOs are like schoolyard bullies, in that until someone stands up to them they will just keep bullying,” he said.
“Another problem with this is you hand out a big load of cash to such a process you are going to attract NGOs looking for cash. In a sense, you are not making the problem go away, you are actually institutionalising your critics,” he added.
D’Cruz said the money associated with the roundtable was turning the palm oil industry into a target.
He said that he thought that the Malaysian government needed to come in and talk to all parties and shut this down before it ended in tears.
“The subtext of the campaign by western environmental NGOs against the palm oil industry was racism,” D’Cruz said.
“Essentially, NGOs like Greenpeace are saying that Malaysians, Indonesians and their elected representatives are too corrupt, lazy or stupid to look after their own countries,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is not an argument that the palm oil industry is best equipped to tackle. It is a job for the Malaysian government and other governments which have palm oil industries.”