KUALA LUMPUR: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has described the international community’s assessments and assumptions about Malaysia’s palm oil as not fair.
He added that the arguments claiming that palm oil cultivation activities in the country has affected its natural ecosystem were not true.
“Palm oil is the cheapest edible vegetable oil. It is also easy to cultivate, and once planted the yield can be enjoyed for up to 25 years unlike other oils such as soybean and rapeseed.
“For that reason – of palm oil being able to compete (with other oils) and likely to win – they invented this idea that we are cutting down trees to plant (oil) palm trees and depriving animals of their habitat,” the Prime Minister said during the question and answer session at the Cambridge University in London after delivering a talk on “Democracy in Malaysia and South-East Asia”.
Dr Mahathir, who is on a three-day working visit to the United Kingdom, also took a jab at Western hypocrisy in using the environment narrative for its anti-palm oil campaigns.
“Most of the forests in Europe have been cleared, so much so there are no more wild animals in Europe.
“But in Malaysia, we still have tigers. If you like to go into the jungle, we can send you there,” he said in jest.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that Malaysia wanted to compete with the rest of the world in a fair manner.
“We have to make some money from the resources we have. We have to utilise our resources.
“Our fertile soil is suitable for palm oil, therefore we produce palm oil,” he said.
The Malaysian government capped the expansion of oil palm plantations at 6.5 million hectares, focusing on utilising higher yielding planting materials and increasing productivity without the need to expand into new forests or peatlands.
Malaysia also maintains its forest cover by at least 50%. — Bernama