It is well known that palm oil has faced significant problems in Europe, including adverse public opinion influenced by negative labelling of food products. What is less well known is that such influences are creeping into Malaysian commercial life as well, with local buyers now seeing the undermining of palm oil on supermarket shelves.

It is the responsibility of all of us to hold to account those companies that challenge the national interest in this way and deliberately bring down palm oil, which is a key pillar of the Malaysian economy.

We must remember why this is necessary. Palm oil is one of Malaysia’s great national successes – and our largest single export. Millions of our citizens rely on this miracle crop for their income and livelihood, and to provide a better life for their children. Our rural areas have been transformed beyond recognition into oases of prosperity and productivity by the palm oil sector.

For it to continue to succeed, it’s important that future generations of Malaysians do not fall prey to the negativity and fake news that has been directed at palm oil elsewhere. An ongoing example is the proliferation of the ‘No Palm Oil’ advertisement or label on food products – often accompanied, for example, by the deliberate promotion of competing oils. Such denigration has had a damaging effect on the sale and use of palm oil in Europe – and this could also happen in Malaysia unless we are vigilant and act quickly.

First, we must focus on education. Younger Malaysians should be provided with data and facts about the benefits of palm oil, to ensure that they have the knowledge and understanding to reject the messages of naysayers. This is the responsibility of all of us – government, industry, media, parents, and so on.

By working together and sharing the burden of educating our young, we can ensure that respect and reverence for the benefits of palm oil are passed on down the generations. For example, I recently met with a group of researchers from the US who are developing a drug to fight Alzheimer’s disease; the main component of the drug is palm kernel oil.


 

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