A lot has been written about the anti-palm oil campaigns that are currently underway in Europe. Two facts are really all you need to know about these.

  • Fact 1: Palm oil is a major contributor to Malaysia’s economy, society and prosperity. Over 650,000 small farmers rely on oil palm for their livelihood: when children are included, that’s 2.3 million of our fellow-Malaysians.
  • Fact 2: The EU has confirmed that it plans to ban palm oil biofuels – a major component of Malaysia’s exports – from 2021. That is only three years away.

Where does the EU’s plan come from? It is proposed within the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), a law that oversees all rules on renewable energy including sources such as palm oil biofuels. The law is currently going through the process of revision.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on the RED in October 2017: as part of this, it voted to ban palm oil biofuels. This decision was endorsed by the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee in a vote in November 2017. Two consecutive votes in the two Committees have confirmed the plan to ban palm oil biofuels.

This EU ban, if implemented, will cause significant harm to ordinary Malaysians. It would decrease the quality of life among our small farmers, and take money out of the pockets of communities across Malaysia. We cannot allow this to happen.

The Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) is launching a petition to give small farmers a bigger voice in defending the Malaysian palm oil sector. We are also supporting a new campaign – facesofpalmoil.org – to defend Malaysian small farmers against such threats.

The simple facts remain: palm oil is essential to our nation and to our communities; and the EU is planning to ban this essential commodity.

Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Abdul Razak has led the way with a strong defence of our small farmers and the palm oil industry. He stated clearly, earlier this year: “We too buy products from them. So whoever boycotts oil palm products, they will face retaliation from us.”

I feel certain that hundreds of thousands of small farmers across Malaysia will be grateful for the Prime Minister’s support. It is important that a strong message is sent to Europe, about the importance of Malaysia’s small farmers and how we will defend their livelihood.

The EU lawmaking process on the RED continues in Brussels. A meeting was held on Dec 18, 2017 by the region’s Energy Ministers – in the Council of the EU (Council) – to discuss the issue. The Council has joint decision-making power with the European Parliament.

Over the coming three to six months, these institutions and the European Commission will have many more meetings, negotiations and votes on the RED. They will decide the future of palm oil biofuels in Europe.

If the EU bans palm oil biofuels under the RED, the future will be bleak for Malaysia; billions of Ringgit earned through exports of palm oil biofuels would simply disappear. That would have an impact on tax revenues and economic growth – and, more importantly, household incomes as well.

The time for talking is over. It is now time for action. FELDA’s smallholders will mobilise to protect the livelihood of their families and communities. I hope fellow-Malaysians will do everything they can to support our campaign as well.

Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad
FELDA, Malaysia


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