Harapan should reconsider BN-era palm oil policy

Kuo Yong Kooi


LETTER | It is a good practice for an administrator, when taking over the management of a country, to review the policies of the previous administration and change it so that it is in line with your worldview.

The current debacle over the European Union's planned sanction of palm oil product imports in the near future is a good reminder for us to take stock and see if we should continue along the path of BN's old policy on massive palm oil mono-crop plantations.

There are arguments for and against palm oil plantations and its products. The issue is: where are we heading now, given that the major topics of concern for the world at the moment are environmental issues like climate change, food security, overuse of pesticides, and virgin forest clearance for palm oil plantations.

If the Pakatan Harapan administration does subscribe to the global conventions to help tackle the environmental issues of our time, then the best course of action is to stop the current madness of the continued mono-cropping of palm oil.

Global climate change is happening. Extreme weather conditions affect and threaten global food security. 

With the European Union’s planned sanction of biofuels made from palm oil by 2020, it is high time that we change the policy now, by looking to slowly convert the current palm oil crop to mixed cropping of fruit trees and food production to deal with food security issues.

Another reason why we need to move away from mono-cropping of palm oil is to deal with the potential impact of unemployment on the people with the full onslaught of the 21st-century development of the fourth industrial revolution.

In this era, artificial intelligence and robotics will replace human labour in the name of efficiency. Uber and taxi drivers will be replaced by driverless cars. Factory workers will be replaced by more efficient robots.

If we do not prepare to face these issues now, when the full impact is at hand, we will be in deep trouble as we are a nation obsessed with racial and religious issues - one of the easiest sparks of social chaos.

There are many smallholders of palm oil plantations who would like to increase their income. The subsidies for replanting should include encouraging them to try mixed cropping of fruit trees and food production.

The advent of the full-scale development of the fourth industrial revolution will have a major impact on issues regarding large-scale unemployment. If we prepare now, we are then poised to tackle the issue with ease when the time comes.

Malaysia is blessed with a tropical climate that can produce abundant food and fruits. Utilising land to produce food and fruits can be a better way to overcome global backlash on mono-cropping of palm oil.

All we need is a bit of hard work, imagination and awareness of the major issues that humanity is facing now.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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