string of crisis in the past with the major one being the attack by
various quarters against palm oil in the 1980s on health and nutritional
Malaysia managed the crises very well judging from the industry’s
spectacular growth with palm oil exports, of about four million tonnes
then, growing by many folds to 18 million tonnes last year.
The potential crisis looming now for the industry is the use of palm
oil to develop biofuel energy with the attack now focused on
We may think that this is not a major issue for palm oil as 90 per cent
of the commodity is used for food, not for biofuel.
However, we must remind ourselves that the would-be ramifications can
go beyond this and we cannot ignore it.
Gernot Pehnelt, a research associate at the German-based European
Centre for International Political Economy, says imposition of the
sustainability requirement would most likely extend beyond biofuel uses
to food, the mainstay of the palm oil industry.
Pehnelt, who recently attended the International Palm Oil
Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu, said Malaysia must take
advantage of any market opportunity for palm oil, including its use as
biofuel, to support future higher palm oil production.
Ironically, oil palm cultivation has always been blamed for widespread
deforestation that destroys biodiversity, degrades ecosystems, emits
greenhouse gases and carbon which contributes to climate change and
traps workers in inequitable working conditions.
To the NGOs, deforestation in developing countries should be stopped at
all costs but by doing so, it will stifle development and create
poverty in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Sustainability and carbon issues can be linked to palm oil price.
The market perception which labelled palm oil as “unsustainable” and
involving “high carbon intensity” will have economic implications that
is high price discounts of palm oil vis-a-vis other vegetable oils.
It can ultimately result in income foregone for the plantation
companies and export earnings loss for Malaysia.
Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) CEO Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, who
also attended the two-day conference, did not mince his words when he
accused Western NGOs of committing a sin.
“For developing countries, to ask them to stop developing is a sin. Who
are they? Are they God to tell them to stop developing when they
themselves went through the same process a long time ago.
“The NGOs are churning out lies and Malaysia and other oil palm
producing countries must continue to produce facts for the truth to
prevail,” he said.
Malaysia has 56 per cent under permanent natural forest cover while
developed nations, on the other hand, have less than 30 per cent and
claim to protect the already protected orang utans, but no funding is
contributed for initiatives to protect them.
Dr Yusof said zoos in New Zealand and Australia are guilty of confining
orang utans under cold and non-tropical climates and they should start
thinking of releasing them back to the wild.
“Of course, the orang utans will not complain of being held captive by
the zoos. How can they? If only they can speak up,” he lamented.
In Malaysia, the MPOC, in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife
Department and Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, has established a RM20
million wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre in Sabah to care for
the orang utans.
Sprawled over 100,000 hectares of rainforest, the centre will have
10,000 hectares of nucleus with rehabilitation and release function for
orang utans and other wildlife.
This just goes to show that the Malaysian oil palm industy cares for
orang utans and the environment. Perhaps, the Western NGOs should come
forward and contribute funds for the mega sanctuary.
When are these NGOs going to wake up to the reality of the day and ask
themselves what they really want and why they are not doing something
for themselves to meet their own objective.
It is clear that the campaign against palm oil in the European Union
and Australia is motivated by trade protection intention, judging from
the fact that independent studies have found that palm oil gives one of
the best emission savings compared with competing biofuels.
Data on soyoil’s emission savings levels have been withheld as the
figures are worst than expected. Isn’t this in favour of soya which is
produced in the EU and the USA?.
How is it 33 million tonnes of carbon emitted from coal mines in the
United Kingdom annually, contributing to global warming, goes undetected
by the NGOs?
Malaysia is not resting on its laurels but is constantly gathering
scientific evidence to favour palm oil in the environmental debate.
The lack of alternative large sources of oils and fats also favours
palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia to remain the major source of
supply to the world market.
Although habitat conservation and greenhouse gas emission are
non-issues for the Malaysian palm oil industry, Malaysia cannot be
It must anticipate and continue to manage this crisis as it has in the
past to remain competitive and relevant.
Source : BERNAMA an analysis by S.Durga Varma