In Malaysia alone, the industry supports nearly 600,000 smallholders and 400,000 others throughout the palm oil supply chain. If the multiplier effect were to be applied, almost four million Malaysians would feel the impact of the Resolution if it is carried through. No wonder there is vocal debate and deep concern each time related issues are raised unilaterally.
In this respect, it is worth noting that, at the end of last year, the EC awarded the contract for a ‘Study on the environmental impact of palm oil consumption and on existing sustainability standards’. The findings are expected to be published by the end of this year. It is already anticipated that the EU will then move apace to regulate trade in palm oil.
On its part, the MPOC will challenge these moves. Even in the run-up to the EU Parliament vote, the documents provided as ‘evidence’ against palm oil by its expert committees were much flawed in many areas. The Malaysian industry – through the Plantations and Commodities Ministry and related agencies – has offered to work with the EU through active consultation and exchange of relevant data.
Malaysia has also declared its intention to impose mandatory certification of its entire industry through the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil standard by December 2019. In addition, the MPOC will strategise to develop alternate markets for Malaysian palm oil. In the long term, growth centres in Asia, Africa and the Middle East could become more important export destinations than Europe.
Currently, about 60% of the EU’s palm oil imports are utilised by its biofuels and renewable energy sector, which reflects an obvious need for year-round supply of an affordable feedstock. So, if the region insists on adopting a one-dimensional, politically-driven agenda against palm oil, who else stands to lose? That’s a no-brainer.
Dr Kalyana Sundram