KOTA KINABALU: The future of Malaysia’s palm oil industry is at stake as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gear up to ratify the proposed resolution to ban importation of palm oil into the European Union (EU) next month.
According to the vice-president of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians’ Conference on Environment and Development (APPCED), Marcus Mojigoh, the country could lose as much as RM10 billion in exports, making up 15% of its total exports, if the resolution is passed.
More recently, the European Parliament also voted to introduce a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market, apart from phasing out the use of palm oil biodiesel by 2020.
The majority of Malaysia’s palm oil exported into the EU is used for biodiesel.
After India, the EU is Malaysia’s second-largest export market, accounting for 2,059,207 tonnes of palm oil products in 2016, according to Malaysian Palm Oil Board data. China is in third place.
Mojigoh was part of a bipartisan Malaysian parliamentary committee to speak to the European Parliament in Brussels recently.
He however said he believed the resolution would be pushed through despite the delegation’s lengthy explanation about Malaysia’s palm oil industry.
“I am very upset and I think it is totally uncalled for that they are insisting to proceed with this.
“We have already put in place very stringent laws when it comes to deforestation,” he said when met here.
The Putatan MP said if the EU insisted on passing the resolution, which he branded as “discriminatory”, Malaysia will be forced to take legal action against them and take the EU to the World Court.
However, given a little more time, he said he was optimistic some of the MEPs could be persuaded to look at the situation more objectively.
He said he was told that while certain countries within the EU were sympathetic towards the plight of palm oil-producing nations, there were others, including economic powerhouses, determined to ensure the resolution was passed.
“They did not limit their objections to biodiesel alone but also palm oil used to make ice cream, cookies, bread, chocolates, noodles and many other food products.
“Their intention is to totally eliminate palm oil.
“They even resorted to scare tactics, saying that palm oil is bad for one’s health.
“Now that this claim has been scientifically disproved, they are saying palm oil production is the main culprit for deforestation and climate change,” he said.
Mojigoh believed that the powers behind the smear campaign against palm oil were dead set on imposing a total ban because they wanted to promote other vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil or soya bean oil into the EU market instead.
Currently, these other alternative sources cannot compete with palm oil as their production costs are much higher than that of palm oil.
Mojigoh, however, admitted that to some extent, it was true that oil palm plantations in Malaysia have encroached on native customary rights (NCR) lands, displacing the natives and depriving them of their rightful lands, particularly in Sarawak.
“I told them, in reality, Malaysia is not perfect and there is lots of room for improvement.
“I urged them to inform us if they see that something is not right. We truly appreciate their concern,” he said.