Europe may be forced to turn to Malaysian palm oil

-NSTP file pic, for illustration purpose only.
-NSTP file pic, for illustration purpose only.

A major energy and food crisis is unfolding as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is forcing European nations to pay in rubles for Russian gas. And the European Union is worried about the acute shortage of sunflower and rapeseed oils that may cause a dent in the food industry.

Many European nations are considering reversing a ban on palm oil, not just because of the shortage of sunflower and rapeseed oils, but also because Russia and Ukraine produce 70 per cent of the supplies.

It is a double blow to Europe after a series of economic and business sanctions imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine.

It looks like Russia has the upper hand, although Western nations and companies have rejected the idea of being forced to pay for gas in rubles, claiming it is a breach of the contract, which is set in euro.

Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas. Hence energy is the most powerful lever at Putin’s disposal as he tries to hit back against sweeping Western sanctions over his invasion of Ukraine.

France and Germany, for instance, are preparing for a possible halt to Russian gas flow.

It is a blessing in disguise for Malaysia when it comes to palm oil.

Many political and economic pundits are saying that European nations did not expect that they may have to reverse the ban on palm oil after all the allegations that Malaysia is one of the palm oil-producing countries that indulged in deforestation.

European countries and foreign non-governmental organisations alleged that large areas of rainforest were often cleared to make way for palm plantations, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions.

They mercilessly attacked Malaysia and Indonesia, which produce about 85 per cent of the world’s palm oil.

Over the years, foreign critics assailed the Malaysian palm oil industry with allegations of child labour, forced labour and ill-treatment of foreign workers.

As a result of these baseless reports, two leading Malaysian firms were banned from exporting products to the United States and certain European countries.

The setting up of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Malaysian Palm Oil Council, together with Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council, was not only meant to address anti-palm oil propaganda by Western countries.

As much as we understood the politics behind the anti-palm oil propaganda, we also knew that we must accede to the demands to reduce forest clearing and address the so-called human abuse issues.

It is good that the country has been working hard on producing a Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification that provides credible, sustainable and responsible management.

It will bring about positive social, environmental and economic impact, and minimise the negative impact on the people and the environment.

The World Wildlife Fund said the best thing European manufacturers could do is support sustainable palm oil and avoid boycotts, “since we know substitutions with other vegetable oils can lead to even further environmental and social harm”.

The government and local palm oil industry players should take advantage of this with potential demand from Europe in the near future.

For the first time in the history of the national palm oil industry, crude palm oil prices hit an all-time-high of RM6,395 per tonne on March 31, bringing huge profits to palm oil industry players, including the 400,000 smallholders nationwide.

As the palm oil industry landscape is about to change due to the crisis in Ukraine, it is crucial to make sure the country’s palm oil industry continues to be among the largest contributors to the national economy.

Source : NST

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