Standing up for small farmers

Making a stand: Protesters displaying placards and shouting slogans during a protest against the EU campaign to ban palm biofuels in Kuala Lumpur. — AFP

Making a stand: Protesters displaying placards and shouting slogans during a protest against the EU campaign to ban palm biofuels in Kuala Lumpur. — AFP

The Government is prepared to do everything it takes to defend some 650,000 small farmers and ensure their livelihoods are safeguarded, says Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong (pic).

The Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister said they would not accept any ban or discrimination against Malaysian palm oil.

“For many years, anti-palm oil activists have been telling lies about palm oil inside Europe.

“This includes radical non-governmental organisations, as well as competitors, who are losing out to our palm oil’s superior qualities.

“Many European politicians have joined the campaign to spread untruths about palm oil such as allegations about deforestation, animal welfare and even food standards,” he said in an interview.

Mah said while it was impossible to stop people from fabricating stories, the Government would go to great lengths to correct these blatant lies and defend the palm oil sector.

“Defending Malaysian palm oil against the threat of a ban in Europe requires us to go out and address the source of the problem.

“That was the main purpose of my working visit to several European capital cities, in order to build up support for Malaysia to defeat the European Union’s (EU) proposed ban,” he said.

Among them were Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as meeting with leaders of the EU in Brussels.

“My message was the same in every city. We will stand up for our farmers and smallholders as their livelihoods are at stake.

“Our initiatives and strong defence of Malaysian small farmers is now recognised in Europe, and it is working. The tide is turning in our favour and the Europeans have reacted favourably,” he said.

Mah pointed out that the EU Commission has stated that it agreed with one of Malaysia’s strongest arguments that the proposed ban was against World Trade Organisation rules.

He said EU governments such as Spain have also publicly declared that they would vote against the palm oil ban.

“As a result of my recent visit, the media across Europe is now reporting the truth about Malaysian palm oil.

“Major newspapers and radio stations in Germany, the UK, Spain and the EU media in Brussels, are highlighting our ground work and aggressive rebuttals.

“This is extremely positive for our small farmers and will help to protect our exports to Europe,” said Mah.

But Mah readily admitted that there was also a problem back home.

He said some irresponsible parties and social media within the country were repeating and promoting the European falsehoods about Malaysia’s palm oil.

“This is totally unacceptable. These individuals are undermining the 650,000 small farmers, who rely on palm oil to eke out a living.

“This is not, and should not be, a political issue,” he said.

Mah said the EU was trying to block our farmers from selling their palm oil without any basis or supporting facts.

He urged all Malaysians to come together and support small farmers in defending their products.

“Our small farmers have the right to cultivate oil palm and other crops as they see fit.

“We will not accept restrictions or any ban imposed on their activities.

“In fact, palm oil has helped our rural communities to increase their income, support their families, and improve their living conditions,” he said.

Mah added that Felda settlers and small farmers played a pivotal role and were an integral part of the country’s development and growth.

He said to oppose the proposal, various groups of small farmers have also made themselves heard, staging protest against the EU and signing a petition with over 300,000 signatures.

“Thanks to their collective determination and support from the Government, we can now stand tall and be positive.

“We are slowly winning the fight in Europe. If I need to travel back to Europe to continue the fight, I will gladly do so,” he said.

Government , palm oil , mah siew keong