Europe still largely depends on palm oil to meet its oil and fats requirements despite European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continuing to berate Malaysia over allegations that the commodity damages the environment, says Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron.
In recent years, the plantation industry in Malaysia has been forced by the NGOs to participate in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a condition to ensure access into the European Union (EU) market as they have been throwing allegations that palm oil is a threat to the Orang Utan habitat and other animals, he said.
“We are not keen to withdraw from Europe because they need our oil more than we need them. I would say we equally need them as much as they need us because it is not easy to replace six or seven million tonnes of palm oil they are importing from us,” he told a roundtable discussion on palm oil hosted by BERNAMA.
It was moderated by Bernama Editor-in-chief Datuk Yong Soo Heong, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Puan Salbiah Said in-charge of Bernama Economic Service (BES) and an Assistant Editor in the BES Cik Siti Hawa Othman.
He said Europe would probably need about 15 to 16 million hectares of land in order to replace palm oil and produce six to seven million tonnes of rapeseed oil.
“They don’t have that kind of land anymore.
They are chronic net importers of edible oil and fats. They need us. They cannot do without importing palm oil,” he said.
Dr Yusof said although the NGOs are very strong in lobbying the European governments to put forms of trade barriers, MPOC is well aware that the continent did not have a choice than to import palm oil.
“As a palm oil producer, Malaysia continues to take the position to supply competently as possible to meet the requirements of our customers.
“We don’t discriminate our customers. We promote good relationship, marketing and efforts in order to continue to sustain and develop these markets more and more. So, big or small we value them.
“It is important to engage the NGOs and try to see how their requirements can be met without deviating from our opportunities and interests to promote the palm oil industry.
“And now we have established and successfully adopted the RSPO principles and criteria, its obvious that the NGOs are beginning to see the good results we are able to supply to Europe and even the US with certified sustainable palm oil,” he said.
Dr Yusof said this is an on-going process of improvement and new efforts must be put in to make situations more acceptable to NGOs and consumers.
He also said contrary to allegations that palm oil was destroying the Orang Utans’ habitat, these primates were thriving in oil palm plantations to the extent that these animals were feasting on palm oil fruits.
“Confirmation from experts, the Orang Utan eats the loose fruits on the ground and they do that regularly visiting our plantations. In the end, the human kind is not the one benefiting from our palm oil industry as food.
“Many other animals, monkeys, squirrels you name it are all benefiting from oil palm fruits.
“The abundance of food for these animals at oil palm plantations was helping to increase monkeys’ population. So, the allegations that we are destroying the habitat is baseless when in fact palm oil is procreating the species,” he added.