Malaysiakini Letter

Those demonising palm oil barking up the wrong tree

Philip Wong

LETTER | Malaysia’s prime minister recent statement that the global assumption on Malaysian palm oil was not fair due to biased reporting on environmental destruction is most timely. 

Attacks on Malaysian palm oil citing forest destruction, habitat loss and killing of the orangutan as reasons to boycott palm oil are totally without facts as pointed out by the prime minister. Europe should look at their own backyards as they have totally demolished all their forests and animals while Malaysia still has over 50 percent forest cover. 

In the case of Sarawak, the state has over 63 percent of forest cover as stated recently by the chief minister. In fact, Sarawak has the largest forest cover of all states in Malaysia.

Everyone knows why the NGOs are attacking palm oil; it is cheap, nutritious and versatile to use which makes it a direct competitor to other seed oils in Europe. By demonising palm oil, the NGOs want consumers to stop buying palm oil - which is actually bad for the world as there will be more destruction of forests and habitat loss. 

Increase in demand for soya, rapeseed, sunflower or canola oils will only lead to more lands being cleared for planting all these which are less productive than oil palm in productivity and sustainability. Hence costs will increase for consumers if palm oil is not available and larger areas of forests will disappear to clear the way to plant these other oilseeds.

Oil palm planting in Malaysia is only allowed in areas which were previously cultivated; no virgin forest can be used for planting oil palm. Furthermore, Malaysia’s palm oil is now undergoing certification under the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council which provides consumers assurances that palm oil is produced sustainably in Malaysia. 

While Malaysia is trying to make known its sustainable practices of the palm oil industry globally, Malaysians should also be equally proactive in telling the world that our palm oil is for the good of mankind and produced sustainably as one of our truly global products for the world.

The writer is director Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa), an NGO dedicated to the betterment of the state of Sarawak and Malaysia.

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

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