Record global palm oil output expected in 2017

Palm oil output in top two producers Indonesia and Malaysia will rise next year and likely surpass the 2015 record, as trees recover from a crop-damaging El Nino weather pattern, said leading industry analyst Dorab Mistry.

The recovery in palm oil output will lead to a “massive rebuilding of stocks” in the oil year ending Sept. 30, 2017, he said at an industry conference in Kuala Lumpur.

“It is too early to forecast Malaysian and Indonesia production for calendar year 2017 but it is more than likely to exceed the record production of 2015.”

The expectations of rising stockpiles could weigh on benchmark palm oil prices, which are up nearly 7% this year on tight supplies after yields were impacted by the lingering effects of last year’s El Nino.

Mistry maintained his global outlook for a strong output recovery of nearly 6.5 million tonnes for the oil year 2016-17 and calendar year 2017.

However, he adjusted his crude palm oil price target, saying it would drop to RM2,200 by end December – Instead of in November as earlier expected – because of recovering production and rising stocks.

“Most of the additional supply will simply replenish stocks,” said Mistry, the director of Indian consumer goods company Godrej International. “Currently I do not expect stocks to become burdensome.”

Crude palm kernel oil prices are also expected to decline from current levels around US$700 per tonne higher than crude palm oil values, to premiums of US$200-250 on slower demand, he said.

Palm kernel oil prices reached a five-year top of RM6,200 per tonne in late August, highest since March 2011, on tight supplies, according to assessment prices by Thomson Reuters.

Price recovery seen

At the same conference, another leading analyst, Thomas Mielke, said global palm oil output will grow by 5.5 million tonnes in the new oil year beginning October,

Global supplies of palm oil will still be tight until March, but production will rebound by 5.7-6.3 million tonnes in calendar year 2017, said Mielke, editor of Hamburg-based newsletter Oil World.

Global output in calendar year 2016 is expected to drop by 3.3 million tonnes to 59.2 million tonnes, he said.

He lowered his 2016 output forecast for top producer Indonesia by 100,000 tonnes to 32.2 million tonnes, and for second-largest producer Malaysia by 300,000 tonnes to 17.8 million tonnes.

He cut his Malaysian output forecast for 2017 by 100,000 tonnes to 20.5 million tonnes, and maintained expectations for Indonesian production next year at 35 million tonnes.

Mielke also said benchmark Malaysian crude palm oil prices are expected to climb to RM2,900-3,000 per tonne in the fourth quarter or in early 2017.

“Palm oil prices are undervalued at the moment,” Mielke said, adding that prices will recover as importing countries start to make more purchases.

Palm oil output, though, will continue to be under pressure due to the lingering effects of El Nino.

“I don’t expect that yields will come back next year … The real increase in yields is going to be in 2018,” Mielke said.

Lauric oils are set to decline in the next 12 months on account of weak demand and recovering production, he noted.

“Once production starts increasing next year, for palm kernel oil in particular and also coconut oil, stocks will increase because demand is poor. Premiums of lauric oil prices versus palm oil is set to narrow in 2017,” he added.


Source: Reuters, Oct 13, 2016

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Indonesia imposes mandatory biodiesel blend for non-subsidised diesel

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : Indonesia biodieselAccording to The Jakarta Post, a new regulation issued last week by Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry makes it mandatory for non-subsidised diesel fuel to also contain a 20% mix of biodiesel. A penalty of Rp 6,000 per litre will be imposed on those who violate the regulation.

The Biofuels Producers Association said the government still needs to clear up some details in the policy to ensure business certainty.

If implemented and enforced, the move is positive for palm oil prices as the biodiesel demand is then expected to more than double year-on-year from the 2016 demand of 2.6-2.7 million kilolitres to 5.6-6 million kilolitres in 2017 (this is after doubling in 2016 from 2015).

However, execution is key; and Indonesia’s track record, especially on the biodiesel front, has been patchy.

Are the subsidies enough? Yes, says the Indonesia Estate Crop Fund which manages the collection of the US$50 per tonne export levy on palm oil (imposed since July 2015) to subsidise biodiesel.

It forecasts that the levy fund will increase 14% year-on-year in 2017 to US$830 million, as exports should recover in 2017 alongside production.

So far 85% of the subsidy fund has been used to subsidise biodiesel and the surplus is enough to maintain the biodiesel programme until the first quarter of 2017.

Source: Credit Suisse, Oct 26, 2016

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India cuts import taxes on CPO, refined vegetable oils

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : India CPO tax

India has cut import taxes on crude palm oil, refined vegetable oils and wheat, as part of efforts to curb food inflation.

Import duty on crude palm oil and refined edible oils has been reduced by five percentage points to 7.5% and 15% respectively, according to the order on a government website. The wheat import tax has been cut to 10% from 25%.

The cut in taxes is expected to increase demand for palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, major suppliers that are already enjoying strong demand from China.

India is the world’s biggest edible oil importer. However, domestic crushers believe the cut to the import duty is mistimed.

“We’re a bit disappointed as we’re on the verge of harvesting a new oilseed crop. The reduction in the duty will put pressure on local oilseed prices,” said Atul Chaturvedi, president of industry body Solvent Extractors Association of India.

“The government should have rather raised the differential between the duties of crude and refined oils to support the domestic refining industry.”

Local vegetable oil prices have surged by 20% since July.

Source: Reuters, Sept 29, 2016

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Malaysia allocates RM80 mil to oil palm sector in Budget 2017

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : Malaysia Budget 2017 RM80 million allocation

Malaysia has proposed a RM50 million allocation for scientific research to raise the quality of palm oil products. Another RM30 million is proposed for replanting, reflecting the position of palm oil as a major export commodity.

The allocations were included in the 2017 Budget Speech delivered on Oct 21, but awaits approval by the two chambers of Parliament.

A day earlier, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, the Hon. Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, said replanting is crucial in order to boost yields. Much of the area under cultivation has mature oil palm trees that are more than 30 years old.

These are too tall for harvesting, and this has caused a fall in productivity, he noted. A replanting grant would encourage growers, especially smallholders, to replace old trees.

He said this year’s palm oil production is expected to be less than 20 million tonnes due to the impact of El Nino.

Last year, the oil palm industry contributed 5.1% to agriculture in terms of gross domestic product. Export earnings stood at RM63.2 billion and accounted for 8.1% of total exports.

Source: Compiled from media reports, Oct 20 & 21, 2016

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Argentina postpones soybean export tax cut to 2018

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : Argentina postpone export Tax Cut

Argentina will not reduce soybean export taxes this year or in 2017 as previously announced, and will instead reduce the tax by 0.5 percentage points per month from January 2018 to December 2019, President Mauricio Macri said on Oct 3.

Shortly after taking office in December, Macri eliminated corn and wheat export taxes as part of his plan to revitalise the country’s massive farm sector.

He also cut the export tax on soybean, the country’s main cash crop, from 35% to 30%. The government had planned further cuts beginning this year.

In September, cabinet chief Marcos Pena told Reuters the government was considering postponing the reduction planned for the end of this year, as recession in Latin America’s third-largest economy ate into fiscal revenue and the government anticipated difficulties meeting planned budget cuts.

Macri has pledged to rein in public spending after the previous government’s generous social programmes contributed to a ballooning deficit. Last month, the government announced a 2017 budget with a fiscal deficit worth 4.2% of GDP, higher than the 3.3% previously planned.

The new soybean tax plan will include a 5 percentage point rebate to producers in the country’s northern provinces – which do not include the main soybean belt – to account for higher transportation costs, Macri said.

The government decided to reduce the tax gradually month by month, to prevent “speculation” amidst concern that farmers would hold off on planting and harvesting until the tax was reduced, Agriculture Minister Ricardo Buryaile said on Oct 3.

“Surely there would have been a significant holding-back of the crop” if the government announced a larger annual tax cut, Buryaile said.

Argentina is the world’s third-largest producer and exporter of soybean after the US and Brazil, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

It is expected to produce 57 million tonnes of soybean and export 10.7 million tonnes in the 2016-17 crop year, which began in October.

The country is also the world’s top exporter of soybean meal and soybean oil. Macri’s government lowered export taxes on those products by 5 points to 27% last year.


Source: Reuters, Oct 4, 2016

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Indian palm oil sustainability framework in the works

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : India palm oil sustainability framework
India, the world’s biggest importer of edible oils, will develop its own sustainability framework for palm oil production considering the domestic ecology, a leading trade body said on Oct 4.

The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) said it has tied up with Hong Kong-based Solidaridad to develop a sustainability framework for India, since the local environment and farming practices are different from those of Indonesia and Malaysia, the top two palm oil- producing countries.

Palm oil, used in everything from chocolate to cosmetics, has become one of the world’s fastest expanding crops, but the industry has been facing intense pressure over deforestation and methods used to clear land. That has driven many buyers to demand certification of environmentally-sound behaviour.

India’s import dependency in edible oils has risen to 70% and expansion of oil palm plantations will help reduce imports, BV Mehta, executive director of SEA, told reporters.

India produces just 200,000 tonnes of palm oil from 250,000 ha of plantations and imports nearly 9 million tonnes per annum, according to the SEA.

“There is limitation on expansion of oil palm [planting] in Indonesia and Malaysia, but in India it could be expanded in the southern and north-eastern states,” said Shatadru Chattopadhayay, managing director of Solidaridad Network Asia Ltd.

Source: Reuters, Oct 4, 2016


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MOU signed on oil palm research in Nigeria

The Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and PZWilmar have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) towards the country’s self-sufficiency in oil palm production.

The MOU was signed in Abuja by Chief Audu Ogbe, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Chief Kola Jamodu, the chairman of PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc. It covers capacity building and knowledge sharing for the research institute.

The collaboration will devote attention to developing a Nigerian climate-specific high yield variety through joint development of early maturing, high yielding, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant hybrids.

The scope includes study visit by NIFOR on the biotechnology approach to elite oil palm planting material development in Wilmar facilities in Asia.

The exchange of visits will also explore end-uses of palm oil and palm kernel oil through isolation of nutraceuticals from palm oil and bio-energy development from waste products.

Source:, Sept 26, 2016

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French Parliament rejects palm oil tax proposal

France’s National Assembly has rejected the latest move to introduce an additional levy on palm oil, the widely used food and cosmetics ingredient.

On Oct 27, Green party lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament failed to win support from both the government and main opposition parties for an amendment to the 2017 Budget Bill.

This would have applied an extra tax of 300 Euros per tonne in 2017, then rising progressively to 900 euros in 2020; it would have further increased each year from 2021. The current tax is 104 euros a tonne.

Provincial French daily Ouest-France reported that members of the social affairs committee of Parliament followed the recommendation of Budget Minister Christian Eckert in rejecting the move.

Only a few environmentalist deputies present in the chamber voted for the levy, the paper reported.

However, the French government has said it would propose by February a new scheme to harmonise taxes on vegetable oils and include an exemption for those that are sustainably produced.

Top palm oil-producing countries Indonesia and Malaysia have lobbied against such tax increases.

Source: Compiled from Reuters, Oct 27 &, Oct 28, 2016


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Edible oil producer in India gets more land to plant oil palm

Edible oil maker Ruchi Soya Industries has signed an agreement with the Arunachal Pradesh state government in India, for oil palm planting on additional land to boost domestic production.

The agreement gives the company permission for oil palm development on 25,000 ha in the districts of West Siang, East Kamang, Lower Subansri and Papumpare. Last year, it had obtained access to 20,000 ha in the East Siang district.

“We are pleased by the efforts put by Ruchi Soya Industries for oil palm development in East Siang district through the timely set-up of a state-of-the-art nursery […],” said state Agriculture Secretary Talem Tapok.

Ruchi Soya founder and MD Dinesh Shahra said the company has always strived for the betterment of Indian farmers and to help them achieve higher yields by providing the right technology and assistance.

The company is involved in palm oil processing with 0.52 million tonnes capacity per annum. It has a turnover of US$4 billion, with its brands including Nutrela, Mahakosh, Sunrich, Ruchi Star and Ruchi Gold.

Source: Press Trust of India, Oct 6, 2016


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China’s 2016-17 soybean imports to hit record level

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : China 2016-17 soybean import hit record levelChina’s soybean imports are forecast to hit a record high of 86 million tonnes in the 2016-17 marketing year that begins Oct 1, up from an estimated 83 million tonnes in 2015-16, according to a GAIN report filed on Aug 30 by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The forecast was slightly lower than the official USDA data forecast of 87 million tonnes. Increased Chinese demand for industry feed and protein meal as a result of a recovery in swine production and steady growth in the poultry sector was seen as the driver for the increase in soybean imports.

“China’s recent sale of stored oilseed and oilseed product reserves (soybean and rapeseed oil) is expected to absorb the market share for food soybean and vegetable oils,” the GAIN report said.

“However, forecast lower imports of [distillers’ dried grains with solubles] as a result of China’s anti-dumping investigation may increase demand for soybean meal and thus support growth in soybean imports.”

Domestic production of soybean is set to grow during the same period as a result of increases in the planted area, reflecting government efforts to restructure the crop mix and better yields.

The China Agricultural Outlook Committee (affiliated to the Agriculture Ministry) forecast 12.86 million tonnes of soybean in 2016-17 on higher yields and favourable weather, up from the previous projection of 12.76 million tonnes. The China National Grain and Oilseed Information Centre has issued a forecast of 12.6 million tonnes for 2016-17, up 8.6% from the previous year.

In addition, an independent oilseed information source predicted China’s domestic production of soybean in 2016-17 will total 14.1 million tonnes, up 3.67 million tonnes from the 10.43 million tonnes estimated in 2015-16.

Forecast lower rapeseed and cotton seed production in China in 2016-17 was expected to increase soybean imports for protein meal. The GAIN report forecast 2016-17 imports of rapeseed to China at 3.9 tonnes, above the USDA official forecast of 3.8 tonnes.

Peanut imports in 2016-17 were estimated to decline to 400,000 tonnes, down from 550,000 tonnes in 2015-16 as a result of strong domestic production. The expected decline reflected strong gains in domestic acreage coupled with a continuing depreciation in the value of the Chinese currency.

The GAIN report also indicated a decline to 8.3 million tonnes in Chinese cotton seed production in 2016-17, partly as a result of an expected decline of 10% in acreage, and down from the estimated 8.9 million tonnes in the previous marketing year.

China’s imports of vegetable oils are expected to be flat in 2016-17 after declining in 2015-16, as a result of the high crush of oilseeds and sales of domestic oilseed product reserves. The forecast for 2016-17 imports:

  • Soybean oil to be unchanged from the previous marketing year at 650,000 tonnes
  • Rapeseed oil to fall to 700,000 tonnes from an estimated 750,000 tonnes
  • Peanut oil higher at 130,000 tonnes compared with an estimated 120,000 tonnes the previous year
  • Sunflower seed to be about unchanged from 2015-16
  • Palm oil higher at 5.2 million tonnes from about 5 million tonnes in the previous crop year, but significantly lower than the average of 5.95 million tonnes in 2012-14 and 2014-15

“Weaker palm oil imports are due to a combination of factors, resumption of export duty in exporting countries; weak demand for palm oil; an adequate supply of other vegetable oils; and depreciation of the Chinese currency,” the report said.

Source:, Sept 2, 2016


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Better returns for Malaysian oil palm smallholders

Market Updates - Issue 4 - 2016 : Better returns for Malaysia palm oil smallholders

Smallholders in Malaysia can sell fresh fruit bunches (FFB) at RM50 per tonne higher (by 13%) to the Oil Palm Planters Cooperatives, compared to selling to oil palm fruit traders.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, the Hon. Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, said the involvement of cooperatives in ensuring the production of quality FFB and palm oil direct to mills, has provided better returns for smallholders.

As at September, 33 cooperatives had been established – 13 in the peninsula, 11 in Sarawak and nine in Sabah. Of these, 20 have started direct integrated FFB sales to mills.

“Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the government allocated RM200,000 to each cooperative to build FFB weighing stations.

“The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is working with Agro Bank for overdraft facilities for cooperatives, for revolving capital to undertake the business of the sales and purchase of FFB.”

He said this in a speech delivered at the opening of the Oil Palm Smallholders National Conference in Ipoh on Oct 11. The text was read by MPOB chairman Datuk Wira Ahmad Hamzah.

The area under oil palm cultivation has reached 5.67 million ha, covering more than 70% of the country’s agricultural land.

Of this area, 40% is managed by individual smallholders and those under the patronage of federal and state government agencies.

Source: Bernama, Oct 12, 2016


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Duncan, Farooq,
Wimmer et al

This is an executive summary of a policy study carried out in 2015 by academics of the German Asian Research Centre into the effects of campaigns by Transnational Non-governmental Organisations (TNGOs) and Direct Action Groups (DAGs) that are targeting Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry.

The study – ‘Debunking Non-profit Campaigns & Economic Impacts on Malaysia’ – considers, in particular, the resulting negative social and economic implications for Malaysia as a major producer of palm oil.

The findings reveal that TNGOs are determined and well financed. Their actions are motivated by self-righteous, often implicitly religious ideals from the Global North that aid in the pursuit of their hostile campaigns. Geopolitical strategies to trigger economic and political regime changes often accompany such transnational activism.

These groups act as political movements originating in the Global North, while pursuing a strategy to undermine and dominate the making of environmental, social, political and economic policy in Southeast Asian countries, among others.

Environmental activism, just like terrorism and human trafficking, has become one of the most polarising themes for Southeast Asian nations, as well as for their policy makers, leaders of industry and citizens. No longer is environmentalism just a struggle to save the planet; it has also become a tussle to change fundamental social values and legal relationships among and within these nations.

On May 31, 2016, Greenpeace International and some of its associated groups were charged in the US Federal court with 11 counts of federal and state offences under the organised crime act – informally dubbed the ‘mafia law’. Greenpeace faces charges of criminal racketeering, conspiracy to commit a felony, and mail and wire fraud. Many of the activists targeting Asian companies were named in the lawsuit; this highlights the changing nature of TNGOs and DAGs.

In Canada, an equally bitter legal battle is going on between Greenpeace and the industry. In India, Greenpeace and others have been declared a threat to national economic security

The study examined a compelling body of evidence showing how the attack on the palm oil industry is akin to the:

  • 1992 anti-mahogany boycott in Europe (Friends of the Earth, 1995) that caused multilateral political friction;
  • 2006 soybean and 2009 beef moratoria in Brazil (Boucher, 2014) that affected the agricultural sector;
  • contemporary campaigns against the pulp, paper and palm oil sectors in Indonesia (Gunther, 2015); and
  • cancellation of bilateral agreements between Singapore and Indonesia over interpretation of environmental laws. (Times, 2016).

Recognising the political nature of the campaign against the Indonesian palm oil industry that has targeted consumer and producer markets, the severity of the threat to Malaysia and its palm oil industry should not be under-estimated.

The economic costs alone will be substantial. A key finding of the study is that Malaysia will lose an estimated US$11.5 billion, or 3-3.5% of its GDP per annum, as the direct result of negative TNGO campaigning. Neighbouring Indonesia has experienced a similar loss.

War by other means

The highly structured and well-funded campaigns implemented by a range of TNGOs employ a number of strategies, such as product Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction campaigns discrediting the Malaysian state and palm oil companies.

Dismissing the potential geo-economic implications as unlikely – simply because they do not fit within the confines of economic rationality (Blackwill, 2016, p.14), business reasoning or policy logic – is discounting risks when it comes to affairs of the TNGO sector.

This is part of a strategy that reflects the new political reality – the intertwining of the interests of Global North nations and a limited group of zealots pursuing an ideologically rooted, anti-development narrative. Exaggerations, over-inflating impacts and misrepresentation of facts are common tactics in use against the industrial ‘targets’.

According to Frances Seymour, a Senior Advisor to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Climate and Land Use Alliance, the use of funding from foreign philanthropic foundations, mostly industrial legacy foundations, has this advantage: ‘Compared with public funding sources, private philanthropy is less constrained by political sensitivities’ (Seymour, ‘Reducing Emissions from Oil Palm Cultivation in Indonesia’, 2014, p.23). Therefore, this funding may be used for purposes that would be highly problematic if public funds were used in a similar fashion.

In addition, foundations are in a position to fund actions over multi-year periods (Seymour, 2014, pp.28-29). The policy study identifies many of the foreign foundations, as well as recipients of the subsidies in Malaysia.

By definition, the strategies employed by TNGOs and DAGs – also known as the Global Action Network – constitute ‘asymmetrical warfare’, defined as action ‘… [i]n which opposing groups or nations have unequal military and economic resources, and the weaker opponent uses unconventional weapons and tactics, [as terrorism], to exploit the vulnerabilities of the enemy strategies pursued by the enemy’ (, 2015).

As evidence from the study shows, environmental activists employ the terminology of ecological and economic warfare interchangeably. The martial concepts are used as constant references by:

  • direct action TNGOs like Greenpeace (Confino, ‘Furious Greenpeace moves to ‘war footing’ at Rio+20’, 2012);
  • militant ecological scientists publishing in the mainline media (Maijaard, 2015); and
  • scientific organisations, such as the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), that engage in policy debate (Moss, 2014), referencing the US Counterinsurgency Manual as a reference point.

By employing asymmetrical strategies, relatively weaker entities such as TNGOs are able to overcome their opposition, although the latter – the nation-states – have greater resources to engage in conflicts. The policy study documents the use of military strategies by environment groups in campaigns against the Malaysian palm oil industry. This, in turn, challenges the nation’s sovereignty and the “rule-based order” (Blackwill, 2016, p.15).

Seymour, the architect of adversarial strategy for the Packard Foundation, wrote (2014, p.6):

‘Consumption is primarily in Asian markets, dominated by Indonesia, India and China, where palm oil is used as a staple cooking oil. The more environmentally sensitive markets of Europe and the United States have smaller shares of the global market but are disproportionately important to the industry due to higher value derivatives and the potential for growth.’ [emphasis added]

The statement, in fact, provides an insight into the reasoning underlying the strategy and the recognition that the small size of the markets in Europe and the US provides the Malaysian industry a vantage point. By understanding the strategy behind the global initiatives, Malaysian policy makers are well positioned to formulate a justifiable counter-strategy.

By focusing negative campaigning on the customers – both public consumers and multinational corporations – of palm oil, TNGOs are able to apply considerable economic pressure on Southeast Asia’s producers.

The study concludes that the size, aggressiveness and potential economic consequences of hostile foreign campaigns will require prompt and decisive intervention by the government, regulatory ministries, palm oil producers and the media, in order to counter what realistically is economic warfare against the State and the palm oil industry.

Fortunately, Seymour’s report (2014, p.16) goes on to identify the vulnerability of the strategy:

‘The main limitation of strategies focused on direct engagement with producer companies is that the ability to translate individual company commitments into sector transformation has not yet been proved. As long as irresponsible companies are able to enjoy the impunity made possible by poor governance and insensitive markets, the “flipping” of specific individual companies one by one will be a long and increasingly difficult task. [emphasis added]

The lack of a second producer company to follow the lead of GAR [Golden Agri Resources] for several years after the announcement of its Forest Conservation Policy in February 2011 casts doubt on the potential of even a large, well-connected company to catalyse sector transformation.’

Her admission that “flipping” individual companies may not produce the desired results allows for a wide range of responses that are available to policy makers and industry management.

It also brings into question the strategic thought process on the part of adversarial TNGOs which support the view that the concept of ‘alternative markets’ is ultimately ineffectual, unless bolstered by broad social sector support. The study documents a lack of broad social support for this strategy in Asian markets, as well as markets in Europe and the US.

A resolute response is required in order to reclaim the value of the Malaysian palm oil industry, and the study makes recommendations for actions to defeat the adversarial strategy.

Policy and industry responses

The transnational activists and militant environmentalists are increasingly coming under fire from political leaders in Asia who are beginning to recognise the harmful potential of these movements.

On Sept 2, 2015, the Indian government stated that Greenpeace, other NGOs and some donors are prejudicially affecting the public and economic interests of the country, while delaying and placing illegal obstructions in the path of its energy plans (Singh, ‘Greenpeace India’s registration cancelled’, 2015).

Indonesia has associated activism with proxy wars (Kompas, 2014) and as a latent threat to society (Doull, 2015); while the Malaysian Academy of Science suggests that the negative campaigns by NGOs are tantamount to deliberate sabotage (Ibrahim A, 2015).

As stated earlier, Greenpeace US and Greenpeace International face charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act. If found guilty, Greenpeace will be a designated criminal enterprise under the anti-mafia, drug cartel and terror legislation (Resolute Forests Products (et al) vs Greenpeace International (& et al), 2016). The implications for policy, industry and the civil society movement is significant.

The study argues that the time is ripe for Malaysian palm oil to reassert itself as an industry leader, and for its government to reclaim control over the destiny of an important sector that contributes so much to the GDP. Since colonial times, palm oil has been considered a strategic resource – for employment, tax revenue, economic development and social stability – in Malaysia. Therefore, whatever affects palm oil negatively must be viewed as a matter of national security.

The study also contends that the interests of national security, if not faced with armed threats, is faced with economic, political, and social threats from TNGOs. It documents alliances that these groups have formed with local and regional militant organisations that are determined to transform the political and economic sectors, the status of indigenous communities, poor communities and other social sectors.

Morphing of activist groups

Greenpeace and many other TNGOs insist that they are political (ecological) movements (Wyler, 2015). Therefore, this study treats the NGOs targeting Malaysia as such.

Lord Robert McCredie May, the former government chief scientific advisor and president of the Royal Society in the UK, said Greenpeace has “transmogrified” into primarily an anti-globalisation movement (Randerson, 2009). The study shows how some conservation groups have morphed into environmental movements and morphed once more into the anti-modern, anti-globalisation movements to which Lord May refers.

Different terms have been applied to these militant organisations – terms like ‘transnational’, ‘cross-border’ or ‘global’ – and designations are rife in academic and policy circles. Technically, Greenpeace and the TNGOs are ‘trans-state’ movements (Fox, 2005); they, therefore, pursue trans-state objectives. And, as this study shows, they are intent on abolishing nation-states and fulfilling the perennial radical socialist dream of a single world government.

To accomplish this dream, the TNGOs – in the context of mass appeal – adopt a policy of encouraging fear and anxiety among citizens around the world. Their product is worry – because worry is what recruits members (Randerson, 2009). What began as a mission to improve the environment for the sake of humanity is today a political movement. Humanity has become the villain, and the need to present hard evidence is a non-issue (Prager, 2015).

These movements place science in the service of ideology. As far as economic development and the idea of progress are concerned, Greenpeace and the NGOs have declared ‘war’ on both – terminology that was deliberately chosen (Confino, 2012).

Since such terminology is not unlike that employed by the Holy Inquisition, Communists, Nazis, Jihadists or Khmer Rouge; it is a language of the extreme (Fiorina, 1999). A new ‘apocalypticism’ based on the end of the world – and encapsulated in the mantra ‘climate change’ – is the tool these groups employ. Dr Sharon Eng wrote (‘Rogue NGOs and NPOs: Content, Context, Consequences’, 2014):

‘A rich literature review of major and minor non-profit scandals – primarily in the West – but also in other countries around the world demonstrate the breadth and depth of non-profit corruption, fraud and misuse of funds as well as misconduct and deviant behavior by individuals within and by organisations. These associations range from Mom and Pop-scaled voluntary foundations to trans-national charitable organisations to trans-national charitable organisations, and so-called ‘Dark Non-profit Groups’ that promote terrorism, hate, extreme political views and other noxious or bizarre ideologies … Consequences of non-profit organisational misconduct and dysfunction reveal a universal need for more research into the dark side of the Third Sector…’

They terrorise and manipulate individuals in order to justify their new world order – one that looks to the past for inspiration, when the human population of the planet was sparse and lived at the subsistence level.

Scholars of social movements no longer consider them as irrational groups or the actors as spontaneous; they assume that TNGOs and DAGs are making rational, tactical and strategic choices (Dalton, 2003).

The result is that a comprehensive, deliberate and premeditated strategy of insurgency is being employed to target the Malaysian palm oil industry, among others, using militant and asymmetrical action (Moss, 2014).

The respectable CIFOR has raised the question of the use of military decentralised decision-making processes being used in conservationism. The reference is linked to the latest edition of the US Army Field Manual on Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies (Moss, 2014).

The evidence presented in this study shows how a global network of actors and interests (Glasbergen, ‘Global Action Networks: Agents for collective action’, 2010) has acted in collusion (Pruyt, 2014). The Global Action Network refers to activists as ‘Change Agents’ or ‘Agents of Change’, but they increasingly act more in line with common radicals. Canadian researchers refer to the movements as ‘multi-issue extremists’ (Monaghan, 2011).

The evidence analysed in this study prompts the question: Are the choices that TNGOs and DAGs make actually out of a concern for the health of the environment?

In the case of Greenpeace’s actions in Russian waters where arctic oil exploration was underway, and in India where energy requirements prompted the use of technology using coal to generate electricity, the strategic thinking of the NGO and its funders backfired. This affected international relationships and triggered negative reactions by these countries. Today, in a growing number of nation-states, activism is seen as a threat to national economic security.

Environmental groups face a dilemma: they have to choose between fundamentalism, extremism, expressive activities and pragmatic, instrumental activities.

According to the first perspective, environmental movements are seen as advocates of a broad-scale critique of the political and social system. The core ideological beliefs of the environmental movement challenge the dominant norms and practices of capitalist (and state-owned) economies and the presumption that economic growth underlies these societies (Dalton, 2003).

For radical environmentalists, ‘progress’ is transmogrified to ‘regress’, and ‘sustainable’ becomes ‘subsistence’. Thus, with the invention of a new terminology and militancy, they seek to transform values and achieve unchallenged power over the strategic resources of countries like Malaysia.

The full study, currently being peer-reviewed and readied for print, is available on request from the authors, as well as at:

Although I thought I had done as much as I could to make everything ready for the family’s arrival, things were still fairly primitive. There was the persistent rat, or rather family of rats, which kept swimming up through the pipes into the bowl of the toilet.

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Oils and fats provide about 9 kcal/g of metabolisable energy compared to 4 kcal/g from protein or carbohydrates. In addition to their caloric and nutritional value, oils and fats carry, enhance and release the flavours of other foods, as well as increase palatability. Oils and fats are a good carrier of Vitamins A, D, E and K with excellent bioavailability.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) cannot be synthesised in the body; therefore, oils and fats provide an excellent source of these essential fatty acids (EFA). Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are also very important for several vital functions of the body.

For these reasons, oils and fats and different types of fatty acids should now be considered key nutrients that affect early growth and development, as well as nutrition-related chronic diseases later in life.

Oils and fats are structural bodily components; they are involved in vital physiological processes, including growth, development, inflammation and brain function. Combinations of lipid and protein (lipoproteins) are important cellular constituents, occurring both in the cell membrane and in the mitochondria, and further serve as a means of transporting lipids in the blood.

Globally, the nine major oils consumed are palm, soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, peanut, palm kernel, cottonseed, coconut and olive oils. Various other oils and fats are also consumed depending on local priorities and availability. All the dietary oils and fats are composed of a mix of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids.


Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids commonly known as PUFA; their deficiency may cause several health problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and age-related functional decline.

High amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, namely linoleic acid (LA), are present in corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and sesame oils among others. Omega-3 fatty acids, namely linolenic acid (LnA), are found in select sources like flax seed, soybean and mustard oils.

Fish oil is a unique source of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Over the last decade, some algal oils have been produced as a source of EPA and DHA.

EFAs, namely LA and LnA, are involved in many physiological processes and vital functions such as blood clotting, wound healing and inflammation; they also convert to longer chain fatty acids like arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA. They are further converted to compounds such as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, lipoxin, resolvins and leukotrienes, with hormone-like or inflammatory properties.

PUFA are known for lowering blood total and LDL-cholesterol and slightly increasing HDL-cholesterol. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are found in olive, canola, peanut, rice bran, mustard, high oleic sunflower and soybean oils, and are part of animal fats such as chicken, pork and beef. MUFA have a blood total and LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect.

Saturated fatty acids (SFA) are found in the greatest amounts in palm, coconut and palm kernel oils, as well as in cocoa butter, butter and animal fats like beef, pork and chicken. SFA increase blood total, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol concentrations and decrease fasting triglyceride concentrations.

One of the most common mistakes some industries make in branding is to spend too much time working on what message to send out, and not enough time on selecting the right medium with which to send that message.

Habits also kick in as to what medium or media to use; the years roll by and the brand declines without anybody taking much notice. Markets and audiences change, but organisations stay with the same old promotion methods in the same old media. I have found that the oils and fats industry suffers with this more than many others.

In wanting to build their brand, few industries realise that a ‘half-okay’ message in a hot medium with a lot of traffic will have a lot more traction (as marketers say) than a super ‘bang on’ message in a tired old medium that nobody bothers with any more.

But many are stuck on the ‘what’ of a message and spend little time on the ‘how’, which is far more important for these reasons:

  • If something is scrappily written, we often won’t bother reading it, let alone pass an opinion as to whether it’s any good in the first place.
  • If something looks appealing, we are more likely to give it more of our attention. That can cover anything from what makes us want to read a book, to what makes us want to listen to a person.

When it comes to a person, the phenomenon is so common that psychologists have a term for it: ‘the halo effect’, where we are more likely to believe or generally give extra credibility to someone who is good looking.

When you talk to enough people on their preferences with media, the range is very broad. Also, there’s not a whole lot of logic in how preferences are arrived at. In many ways it parallels food preferences. Sometimes there’s a practical easy-to-understand reason for a preference, but often there isn’t. It can be a general impression of aesthetics or something even more whimsical.

If you think the answer is to focus on which new social media to use for communications – email, LinkedIn or Facebook, for example – it’s more complicated than that. Some people have stopped with social media altogether.

For most of human history, there has really been one technology for the media: the printed word. But a hundred years ago, that changed with more technologies: radio, TV, PCs, the Internet, smartphones and now tablets.

And the number keeps on growing – it’s not as if one medium falls into disuse because a new one comes along. It’s a pluralistic word.

The Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR) recently asked the question: What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm?

This is also a question that NGOs ask. And when they do, it’s a loaded question. It is directed at western companies and policy makers. It goes hand in hand with assumptions that:

  1. Oil palm growers are a large, homogenous group.
  2. Oil palm growers are mostly part of large corporations.
  3. Everyone everywhere considers environmental sustainability to be the No. 1 priority.
  4. Western developed markets are the only markets that matter.
  5. ‘Sustainable’ means all aspects of sustainability – including poverty reduction – are covered.

Anyone who has a basic understanding of palm oil production and palm oil markets knows that none of these assumptions are true. But there is such great misunderstanding in the debate over palm oil that western NGOs have been able to move it in the opposite direction.

Consider how the NGOs are pushing for tighter, more expensive standards that are completely out of reach for small farmers, and which exclude them from supply chains.

The most egregious example of this is the ‘zero deforestation’ traceability model. This was the model that resulted in Unilever having to cut 80% of its smallholder suppliers from its network.

What this underlines is that most of the NGO arguments around sustainability are simply a string of western moral arguments about the environment. These have little to do with balanced perspectives or producing strong social and economic outcomes on the ground.

The CIFOR research bears out these fallacies – but don’t expect NGOs and campaign groups to leap on the findings.

Take this from the report’s executive summary in relation to uptake of certified sustainable palm oil and ‘zero deforestation’ commitments by major companies:

‘… oil palm growers are a diverse group, operating in a range of contexts; this means that current high profile signs of change by large multinational companies may not be representative of the entire sector.’

Or on the importance of sustainability among smallholder growers:

‘In regions such as Sumatra with long-established oil palm sectors, the number of independent smallholder farmers is growing rapidly. These smallholders have access to an escalating number of independent mills, which offer competitive pricing opportunities. These mills rely heavily on fresh fruit bunches purchased on the open market and often do not have corporate purchasing policies or checks in place for legality and sustainability concerns.’

And on the importance of western markets:

‘…growers are catering to rapidly growing import markets in China and India, which place much less focus on environmental and social principles, compared to western markets.’

Two US universities launched an unprovoked attack on the palm oil industry in September, peddling erroneous mortality statistics attributed to the haze event of 2015 in parts of Southeast Asia.

Since then, Greenpeace has used these figures to spread misplaced health-related fears, including at the European Palm Oil Conference in Warsaw, Poland, from Oct 5-6.

The study, a collaboration between Harvard and Columbia universities, attempted to quantify the number of deaths from the 2015 haze event. It claimed that 91,600 premature deaths in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore were linked to this.

Immediately rejecting the claim, Malaysia’s Deputy Director-General of Health, Datuk Dr S Jeyaindran, said: “No such thing! We had no deaths last year directly related to the haze.”

The results were similarly rebuffed by the governments of Indonesia and Singapore.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said the research “could be baseless or they have the wrong information”. Singapore’s Ministry of Health said the study was “not reflective of the actual situation”.

Let’s establish this from the start: there is zero doubt that haze events have an impact on public health. That is clear and inarguable. And there is zero doubt that, if the level of haze is reduced, there will be a reduction in these health impacts.

However, advancing good management of land-clearing fires or public health was not on the mind of the researchers. Rather, their goal was to advance an agenda that appeases their rich New York City donor class, at the expense of 300,000 hard-working Malaysian small farmers, among others in the oil palm industry. This must count as western greed and alarmism at its worst.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is generally considered the ‘gold standard’ for palm oil certification. There are good reasons for this.

The organisation and its processes have been in place for more than 10 years. It has a broad range of stakeholder input. It has ‘brand recognition’ among producers, financial institutions, purchasers and other bodies.

But there is no doubt that the focus of the scheme is Southeast Asia. This isn’t surprising. Close to 90% of the world’s oil palm is grown in the region. The scheme’s genesis came from concerns about the environment in Southeast Asia.

This also means there is a level of antipathy – albeit unintended – to other parts of the world where oil palm is grown. Because of this, there are certain elements of the RSPO that simply don’t work in other contexts.

Take, for example, the RSPO’s criteria and indicators on natural pest control. They require the reduction or elimination of all pesticides that are classified under the heading 1A or 1B in terms of their toxicity by the World Health Organisation. They also require the same of any substances listed under the Rotterdam Convention.

Now look at blast disease, which affects oil palm crops – particularly pre-nurseries – in Africa. Blast disease is very destructive.

A severe case decimated the Ghana Oil Palm Development Company’s growing stock in 1994. The only effective treatment is the application of carbofuran (carbamate family). This is a pesticide that falls under the 1B classification (highly hazardous). It is toxic.

But most parts of the world, with a few exceptions, permit its use. Those exceptions are the US, Canada, the EU and a number of African countries that don’t grow oil palm at an industrial level.

Carbofuran comes under the Rotterdam Convention requiring certain handling protocols, but this is not the same as a ban. It is recognised as the only treatment for blast disease in oil palm by the International Fund for Agricultural Development – a UN agency.

With robust macro-economic fundamentals, India has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing significant economies. GDP growth, rising incomes, population pressure, age profile and appetite for consumption have all combined to drive demand up for various goods and services. Food, of course, tops the list.

Despite an impressive show on the economic front, India’s development indicators are far from satisfactory. The proof of this comes from the country’s low ranking in the Human Development Index and high rank in the Global Hunger Index. While India demonstrates economic growth, progress on social development front lags far behind.

A pernicious but under-appreciated challenge India currently faces is pervasive malnutrition or specifically, under-nutrition. This is prevalent especially in the rural areas and among the urban poor.

The National Family Health Survey revealed that as many as 42% of children below the age of five are under-weight with a high prevalence of stunting. An alarming 70% of women are found to be anaemic. They include pregnant women and lactating mothers. There is pervasive protein and calorie deficiency, leading to serious acute malnutrition.

The importance of nutrition to human well-being is well known. Under-nutrition exerts long-term adverse effect on human health, impairs labour productivity and general well-being.

Perpetual under-nutrition results in low resistance to infections and increased morbidity. It imposes higher healthcare costs on individuals and, worse, imposes huge hidden, unaccounted and unrecognised losses on society and the nation at large.

Within the country, we find stark inter-state variations in the nutrition profile of people. For instance, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Punjab do reasonably well, while the nutrition profile of states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan leaves much to be desired.

Those following the palm oil debate in Europe know that the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) has been used for years as a tool to protect domestic oilseeds by restricting market access for imported vegetable oils.

Previous versions of the RED have included obvious and at times incredible attempts to discriminate against palm oil: however, all had been dismissed as anti-scientific, unworkable and contradictory to facts.

That the RED is anti-scientific is widely known, but this has now been confirmed by the most unlikely of sources – the European Commission (EC) itself.

On Oct 12, quoted Marie Donnelly, the EC’s Director of Renewables, Research, and Energy Efficiency, as saying at a conference: “We cannot just be led by economic models and scientific theories […], we have to be very sensitive to the reality of citizens’ concerns, sometimes even if these concerns are emotive rather than factual […] or scientific.”

She added that the first concern regarding conventional biofuels is a purely emotive reaction to ‘food versus fuel’: “There are many people in Europe who feel that if we take food and put in our tanks and cars, we are taking food from people who are starving elsewhere in the world.”

It is important to take a moment to consider the implications of this statement. It reveals that the EU accepts that its flagship emissions-reduction, renewable energy policy is not based on facts or science. This is a damning indictment of the weakness and the discrimination of the policy-making process.

The admission – which confirms what has been known to be true in any case – is of greater concern because, in some important ways, the RED has worked well. An important area of achievement has been in the transport and energy generation sectors, where imported palm biodiesel has been used as a renewable energy source to great effect.

The use of palm biodiesel in Europe has increased because:

  1. Palm oil is an incredibly cost-effective commodity. Its yield is superior to that of competing oilseeds, such as rapeseed. Rapeseed produces about 0.79 tonnes of oil per ha; palm oil produces 4 tonnes per ha.

    The incredible efficiency and productivity of palm oil leads to cost benefits for businesses and consumers in Europe – not to mention environmental benefits, as far less land needs to be used to produce the oil.

  2. Malaysian palm biodiesel meets stringent sustainability standards both at home and abroad. Malaysia has a world-leading palm oil sector, with strict government and industry regulation. The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil standard aims to cover all domestic production, and is a guarantee of quality and sustainability.

    To qualify for biofuel imports under the RED, Malaysian palm oil must meet further sustainability criteria, in the form of certification schemes that are recognised by the EC. Malaysian producers have no problem with meeting demanding criteria, such as those under Germany’s ISCC certification.