EU attack on small farmers unjust, discriminatory

IT’S a fact. The livelihood of 3.2 million small farmers in Malaysia will be severely impacted by the European Union’s (EU) latest action to ban palm oil biofuels from its Renewable Energy Directive (RED) programme by 2020.

For small farmers whose income for decades are mostly dependent on the cultivation of oil palm and selling of palm fruits, the EU’s reckless and discriminatory act is set to drive them back to a life of poverty experienced back in the 1970s.

Towards this, small farmers associations nationwide in a united stand has on Tuesday launched a campaign and digital ad – the first of many other palm oil awareness campaigns to come – in their efforts to stop the EU ban on palm oil.

The “insightful but punchy” campaign entitled “The Truth About The EU Ban On Palm Oil” – which will soon appear across Europe – is basically to point out the unjust and discriminatory EU attack against Malaysian small farmers.

It also highlighted that the proposed ban on palm oil biofuels actually violates the EU and World Trade Organisation’s law as well as undermine Europe’s trade and geopolitical policies.

At the same, it was rather amusing when the campaign ad highlighted the significant palm oil contribution to the EU’s GDP at about €6.42bil, EU’s tax revenue of €1.2bil and that palm oil employment in the EU creating some 93,000 jobs.

“The EU’s policy to ban palm oil from the RED programme is deemed to be a reckless and discriminatory market act on all fronts to single out local palm oil,” said the National Association of Smallholders (NASH) president Datuk Aliasak Ambia.

“We (smallholders) will fight tooth and nail to stop the EU ban on palm oil biofuels from taking place by 2021,” Aliasak told StarBiz.

He pointed out that local small oil palm farmers were demanding for the European Council to reject the proposals of the European Parliament, and reaffirm Europe’s commitment to South-East Asia, Malaysia and small oil palm farmers.

Yesterday, NASH on behalf of its 400,000 smallholder members nationwide, has submitted protest letters to all the EU energy ministers.

The gist of NASH’s protest letter was that palm oil has allowed the rural poor in Malaysia to develop its own land, thus lifting farmers and their families out of poverty, and take control of their own economic density.

An EU ban on palm oil biofuels is an “all-out assault” against the hundreds of thousands of small farmers across Malaysia. The EU will force farmers into poverty if it bans palm oil.

“NASH and local small farmers will not stand by while Europeans attempt to sell commercial products to Malaysians with one hand and cutting off our economic lifelines with the other hand.

“It is an unacceptable behaviour; hence the palm oil ban must be stopped immediately,” Aliasak pointed out.

In Malaysia, some 650,000 smallholders are dependent on palm oil as their income. About 40% of the country’s total planted is from smallholders.

Echoing similar protest on the EU ban on palm oil biodiesel is Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad.

There are 112,635 Felda small farmers in Malaysia and their families whose livelihood are closely related to oil palm.

Shahrir said Felda small farmers were demanding a clear and direct clarification from the EU that palm oil biofuels would not be banned.

“The Malaysian palm oil industry is an economic lifeline for small farmers; it has lifted their families from poverty to prosperity.

“I will continue to defend the interest of our small farmer community and ensure justice for them in the global markets,” added Shahrir in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said: “It is unacceptable that European politicians are preparing to put at risk the prosperity, safety and health of 3.2 million Malaysians.

“Tens of thousands of Salcra small farmers and their rural communities will suffer if the EU bans palm oil biofuels. We will not allow this to happen.”

Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA) president Dr Richard Mani said: “Indigenous people in Malaysia will suffer if the EU bans palm oil. Indigenous communities have used palm oil to lift ourselves and our families out of poverty, and build new hope for the future.

“The EU’s proposal puts all of that at risk and undermines UN Sustainable Development Goals. On behalf of the Dayak planters of Malaysian Borneo, I urge the European Council to abandon this cruel and heartless plan that will only bring poverty to Malaysia.”

Faces of Palm Oil is a joint project of the NASH, Felda, DOPPA, Salcra and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council that seeks to advocate on behalf of Malaysian small farmers.

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