Crisis After Crisis Only Made Palm Oil Emerge Stronger

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 (Bernama) — The palm oil industry has faced a

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

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