The following are written by my colleague Rupa Damodaran.
European Union (EU) lawmakers are increasingly convinced that Malaysia is on the same path as the EU on the sustainability of palm oil production, but would need more scientific data to support Malaysia's case.
A social democrat MEP who hails from Denmark, Jorgensen said the EU is committed to the sustainability criteria as it helps mitigate problems of greenhouse gases, climate change, global warming and also biodiversity. "We're happy to hear that the industry acknowledges and respects it. They have been discussing how it can become more competitive on the sustainability criteria."
Malaysia's ambassador to the EU, Hussein Haniff, who also attended the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said more outreach programmes were necessary to enable the EU lawmakers to be convinced that Malaysia is not clearing rainforests to grow oil palm. There is also the tendency to lump both Malaysia and Indonesia, the top two producers of palm oil, together.
"We want an equal playing field and they are willing to take up on the verification of scientific data. From what we know, they have outdated data. In the process of review, if they find the default value is not 19 per cent, then it will be good for us to be on par with the other oils," said Hussein.
Palm oil deserves equal trade opportunities
TRADE in palm oil products should not be victimised by legislation in the European Union (EU), and in Australia, arising from the Western anti-palm oil campaigns, said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer.
Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said that such legislation would be seen as a trade protection measure, which could force the affected countries to relatiate.
Malaysia's above average performance in habitat conservation of the orang utan and in greenhouse gas emission (GHG), as well as being a net sequester of carbon, deserves recognition, he said.
"We have earned our right to trade. We should not be asked to clean the mess (GHG emission) of developed countries," Yusof said in addressing the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu recently.
He cited the refusal of Russia, a world leader in timber production and export, to comply with the EU-certified timber scheme. Likewise, palm oil should not be singled out for sustainability compliance unless other competing oils are also subjected to similar requirements.
GHG emission is not an issue as Malaysia is a net carbon sink country with more than 82 per cent tree cover provided by permanent forests and plantation crops, including oil palms, rubber, cocoa and coconuts.
Sarawak has the highest distribution of peat in the country at 64 per cent of the total of 2.58 million hectares. According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, 400,000ha of oil palm in the country is on peat land out of a total oil palm area of 750,000ha in Sarawak.
Tradewinds has 75,000ha of oil palm in Sarawak, with the crop grown in both mineral soil and peat soil.