The Western countries, particularly the European Union (EU) should emphasise the principles of fairness, transparency and non-discrimination in palm oil trading, said Director-General of Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) Dr. Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir.
According to him, the West must maintain a global level playing field for trading of commodities, especially in importing of palm oil in line with the principle of non-discrimination.
“We have been reading negative reports about palm oil by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the West. Their negative campaigns suggest that palm oil is the main culprit of deforestation and biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia. Their unfair treatments to our palm oil such as the “No Palm” label will only confuse and mislead consumers. The West should not denigrate our palm oil products in order to protect their vegetable oils,” he said.
He went on saying that the West, especially the EU, should consider the significant progress that Malaysia has achieved for sustainable production of palm oil as well as the efforts for conservation of forest and biodiversity.
“Policies and programmes for conservation and green initiatives are in place. Our palm oil sector is one of the most highly regulated with legislation and regulations to ensure that it adheres to domestic and international standards. For example, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) has set up the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Fund focusing on activities such as forest tree replanting, minimising human-animal conflict and biodiversity conservation,” he explained.
Dr. Ahmad Parveez said, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme launched in 2015 and made mandatory from 1 January 2020 has enhanced the value of Malaysian palm oil by minimising the carbon footprint of the industry. Hence, the Malaysian palm oil industry is committed to produce 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, he said. The scheme also stresses on the well-being and welfare of workers and labour as well as protecting the environment from potential contaminants and illegal activities according to the national and state legislation.
He highlighted that the government has endorsed several key policies in 2019 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 to ensure sustainable development of palm oil industry. 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.
Dr. Ahmad Parveez stressed that Malaysia’s continuous improvement and concerted efforts in making sustainable palm oil a reality cannot be achieved without the cooperation and commitment from all stakeholders including the palm oil importing countries.
According to him, MPOB is 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.
On the issue related to the banning of palm oil due to allegations of forced labour, he said: “There are some misunderstandings about the Malaysian culture and the practice of the local planters especially the smallholders with regard to labour issue in the oil palm plantations. MPIC and MPOB are actively conducting a series of roadshow to correct the interpretation of forced labour and child labour among the industry players.”
He added that Malaysia had also followed Indonesia's move by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over European Union rules restricting the use of palm oil-based biofuels in European markets through European Union Renewable Energy Directive II (EU RED II).