Do you have a message for other food companies operating in Malaysia?

Yes. Arla Foods is not the only foreign company here that has demonstrated issues with palm oil, whether through labelling or other means. The government is clear that this will not be tolerated. Our highest priority is to protect and defend the best interests of the people of Malaysia, including all those who work in the palm oil sector.

To all those companies operating in Malaysia, I have a simple message: you are welcome; we want you to operate and sell your products here but, in turn, you must be respectful of our products, our people and, yes, our palm oil.

As a reminder, Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said recently that the government would not be silent on any campaign against palm oil and would give a fitting response to those who harm the industry.

He has called on everyone to respond rationally to negative campaigns against palm oil, with facts and figures on allegations of deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitats. He has also pointed out that the industry is facing unprecedented challenges, particularly in the European Union, which is systematically side-lining palm oil.

The use of the ‘No Palm Oil’ label occurs mainly in Europe. How do you plan to tackle the situation?

My Ministry has been addressing this issue head-on. I met with the EU Commissioner and several members of the European Parliament during my most recent trip to Europe. At the same time, the MPOC has been conducting effective campaigns against the anti-palm oil stance in Europe.

More can and must be done. Many of the companies using the label are also members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). One of its rules states that the label is not allowed, so this must be enforced. The RSPO must ensure that none of its member-companies affix negative labelling.

Will the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification help with removing negative labelling?

Absolutely. The MSPO is a game-changer. It will allow smallholders to achieve certification, which is an important and necessary advance for the Malaysian palm oil sector. It will ensure that smallholders have an equal opportunity to participate in a certification scheme and gain market access.

The MSPO is also a message to the world. It is a mandatory scheme, undertaken by the government and designed using international best practices. The MSPO illustrates Malaysia’s commitment to leading the world in palm oil sustainability.

At the meeting on Oct 5, Arla Foods committed to working with the government on the MSPO. The Danish Embassy stated that it supports sustainable palm oil production. It undertook to continue a constructive dialogue with Malaysia in finding long-term sustainable solutions of high global standards for the benefit of palm oil consumers, farmers, the industry and other stakeholders.

It is important that the MSPO gains such wider acceptance: this will be essential for delivering full value to our smallholders.

Source: The Star, Oct 14, 2017

This is an edited version of the article.


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