Joint efforts to tackle palm oil trade barriers

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA, in welcoming the inauguration of the Jokowi administration, looks to Indonesia for continued efforts in poverty alleviation by jointly tackling smear campaigns and barriers to palm oil trade. 

Indonesia President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo unveiled his Cabinet line-up recently to govern Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and the world’s big supplier of coal, rubber, palm oil and mineral ores. 

“As main producers of palm oil, contributing to the world’s food security, Malaysia is on the same page as Indonesia in developing agriculture in a way that balances the needs of people, planet and profits,” said Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron on the sidelines of the Palm Oil Trade and Seminar, here, yesterday. 

“We were informed that our ministry will be seeking to continue bilateral talks to address the opening of markets that are increasingly hindered by non-tariff trade barriers and protectionism,” he added.

A business-matchmaking session between palm oil buyers and suppliers, chalking up more than 100 appointments, was arranged in conjunction to this gathering of some 400 trade delegates.

“Oil palm planting and palm oil exports provide developing nations a path out of poverty. The growing of oil palms, the world’s most efficient oil crop, is helping the people of Malaysia and Indonesia to improve their standard of living,” said Yusof.

On striking a balance between the needs of people, planet and profits, Yusof said many tend to overlook that oil palms, just like other trees in the forest, contribute to carbon sinking. In times of surplus, excess palm oil also serves as an alternative to depleting fossil fuel.

Oil palm planting allows Indonesia and Malaysia to supply affordable and nutritious cooking oil and margarine to billions of people in developing nations such as China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam. 

According to Oil World trade journal, Malaysia and Indonesia collectively export the bulk of 56 million tonnes of palm oil.

In the last five years, Malaysia earned between US$15 billion and US$20 billion (RM50 billion and RM70 billion) a year from palm oil exports. Indonesia Palm Oil Commission reportedly said the republic earns US$10 billion annually from palm oil shipments.

Malaysia’s annual palm oil exports worth US$20 billion support two million jobs along the sprawling palm oil value chain.

Despite its positive attributes, Yusof said the oil palm industry continued to face discrimination. “Environmental activists continue to dictate certification criteria and lobby for the European Union Renewable Energy Directive which discriminates against palm oil. This discrimination is against rules laid down by the World Trade Organisation.”