WASHINGTON: Malaysia is stepping up its campaign to fight misinformation about palm oil and timber products in the United States via a series of forums in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Washington DC from Oct 3 to 11, led by Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.
“We are greatly concerned by the campaigns targeting the palm oil industry. These ... can be biased leading to distorted conclusions about the environmental damage due to palm oil cultivation.
“There is definitely a concerted non-governmental organisation flavour to these accusations that paint a bleak scenario on the sustainability of the palm oil industry,” he said in his keynote address at the Roundtable Forum on Sustainable Development of Palm Oil on Thursday.
He pointed to the unfair calculation of carbon emissions for palm oil based on comparisons with carbon stocks of the pristine rain forests as the starting point.
Dompok said voluntary measures had been taken by the palm oil industry to obtain certification under the watchful eye of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
“What is most disconcerting is that when the first Certified Sustainable Palm Oil hit the markets, our critics made a complete turn and criticised the very RSPO process that they advocated in the first place,” he added.
In an interview, Dompok said 157,000ha was planted with oil palm that met with the criteria set by the roundtable, which was expected to increase to 2 million ha over the next few years.
He said his ministry, through the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), initiated the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund dedicated towards studies, efforts and initiatives in conserving wildlife and the environment.
“We have established that there is a highly viable population of orang utan in the wild, despite the palm oil industry,” said Dompok, referring to a survey conducted in Sabah.
Malaysia, one of the biggest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world, produced 17.7 million tonnes of palm oil last year.
Of this, 15 million tonnes were exported to more than 150 countries worldwide, reflecting buyers’ recognition of Malaysia as a reliable supplier of palm oil, he said.
MPOC chairman Lee Yeow Chor, in addressing the criticisms made against the the palm oil industry, said the Government and private sector were serious about protecting the environment while mindful of the three Ps – People, Planet and Profit.
Saying that one of the worst enemies of the environment was poverty, he added that the oil palm industry had provided employment to at least 800,000 in Malaysia.
The industry had emerged as a signifiant foreign exchange earner raking in an average of RM30bil for the past three years, Lee said.
The minister and his delegation, comprising the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, MPOC and the private sector, are scheduled to meet the US Trade Representative, US Department of Agriculture, United Soybean Board and International Wood Products Association before departing for home tomorrow. — Bernama