False accusations have been levelled against palm oil by French Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Minister Segolene Royale. Her claim that ‘palm oil contributes to deforestation’ has misled the public in France and in Europe.

The oil palm remains unchallenged as the world’s most land-efficient oilseed crop, producing more oil but using less land. Malaysia is also the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil. This is evidence in and of itself that Malaysia is not deforesting, as Minister Royale and her far-left Green friends have claimed.

The Malaysian palm oil industry needs public confirmation from the French Government that the Minister’s comments do not reflect official policy on palm oil, especially in relation to climate change and the environment.

Paris will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from Nov 30 to Dec 11. Before then, it is essential that the French Government in general, and Minister Royale in particular, educate themselves on basic environmental facts involving palm oil production.

Malaysia proudly maintains 63% of its land area as forest – an unparalleled environmental commitment that has been recognised by the UN and the World Bank. In comparison, France has a paltry 29% under forest cover.

In all, Malaysia has 205,000 sq km of forest, or an area more than twice the size of Portugal. Of this, 23% is conserved and protected as primary forest. The rest is maintained as permanent reserved forest, which means it can never be put into agriculture or used for other forms of development.

The palm oil industry has helped reduce the national poverty rate from 50% in the 1960s to less than 5% today. As at 2014, 38.5% of Malaysia’s oil palm plantations are owned or farmed by small farmers, who have taken this route out of poverty in rural communities. The sector is one of the nation’s largest employers, directly employing more than 570,000 people, while 290,000 more are employed downstream.

Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil and a major exporter to Europe. According to the respected economic analyst Europe Economics, palm oil imports add substantially to the French economy, with 4,600 jobs being linked to this economic activity. Palm oil also contributes 170 million EUR in tax revenue, while more than 320 million EUR in French GDP are attributed to palm oil.



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