The anti-palm oil campaigns and attacks on palm oil by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the West continue to escalate.
Trade protectionism and unfair treatment such as the EU Delegated Acts, California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act and the no palm label are some of their efforts aimed at crippling our palm oil industry.
The government, through its agencies particularly the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, has been undertaking relentless efforts including diplomatic approach to address this long standing issue due to the importance of the country's bilateral relationships with the Western countries.
The Malaysian palm oil industry is one of the most highly regulated with legislation and regulations in place to ensure that it adheres to domestic and international standards.
Numerous efforts are in place for conservation and green initiatives. For example, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) has imposed cess on the palm oil industry players, which is being utilized for conservation purposes and green initiatives.
The ministry has also set up the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Fund focusing on activities such as forest tree replanting, minimizing human-animal conflict and biodiversity conservation.
The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme, made mandatory from January 1 2020, has enhanced the value of Malaysian palm oil by minimizing the carbon footprint of the industry.
The industry is committed to producing palm oil in accordance to the principles and criteria prescribed by the mandatory MSPO which focuses on increasing productivity through good agricultural practices and better planting materials.
The MSPO scheme also emphasizes on the well-being and welfare of workers and labor as well as protecting the environment from potential contaminants and illegal activities according to the National and/or State Legislation.
The government has also highlighted the importance of regulations with regard to the well-being of labor in the MSPO certification.
To ensure sustainable development of palm oil industry, the government has adopted several key policies which include capping the total of oil palm cultivated area to 6.5 million hectares, stopping the planting of oil palm in peatland areas and strengthening regulations concerning existing oil palm cultivation on peatland.
The government also banned the conversion of forest reserve areas for oil palm cultivation and pledged to make the oil palm plantation maps available for public access.
MPIC is also assisting Sime Darby Plantation Bhd and FGV Holdings Bhd on the ban imposed on the two companies by the US government over alleged labor issues.
There are some misunderstandings about the Malaysian culture and the practice of the local planters especially the smallholders with regard to labor issue in the oil palm plantations.
MPIC and MPOB are actively conducting a series of roadshow to correct the interpretation of forced and child labor among the industry players to avoid such judgement as the government takes the matter of labor welfare seriously.
Malaysia has also filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization over European Union rules affecting the consumption of palm oil-based biofuels.
The Western countries should emphasize the principles of fairness, transparency and non-discrimination in conducting international trade.
They have to maintain a global level playing field for trading of commodities including importing of palm oil in line with the principle of non-discrimination. They should consider the significant progress achieved by Malaysia for the production of palm oil in a sustainable manner as well as the efforts for conservation of forest and biodiversity.
Malaysia's continuous improvement and concerted efforts in making sustainable palm oil a success cannot be achieved without the cooperation and commitment from all stakeholders including its importing countries.
We are open to exchange of scientific information and views with the Western countries in order to find a mutually beneficial and acceptable way forward to ensure continued market access for the Malaysian palm products.
We will continue to engage the West constructively and positively to address these challenges.