KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today dismissed claims by critics linking palm oil to deforestation in Malaysia, calling them “baseless, unfair and unjustified”.
“The issue of deforestation in connection to palm oil plantations has always been championed by our detractors,” he said at the launch of the “Hutan Kita” exhibition at KL Tower here.
He also hit out at claims that the country is putting the need for development ahead of the needs of its forests.
He said these claims have a negative impact on Malaysia, which depends heavily on the palm oil industry to raise the socio-economic well-being of its people in line with its sustainable development goals.
He said they have also had a significant impact on palm oil growers, including 650,000 smallholders and another 1.5 million workers in the palm oil supply chain.
“The truth is, the palm oil industry in Malaysia has been developed sustainably and responsibly,” he said.
Mahathir said the government has taken measures to ensure that the industry causes no environmental degradation and to avoid unsustainable practices such as the destruction of forests and wildlife habitats.
He said the palm oil industry is now focused on improving productivity and yields rather than expanding land, in a bid to prevent deforestation and direct or indirect land-use change.
“Restrictions on the planting of palm oil on peatland as well as in permanent reserve forests have also been imposed,” he said.
He added that the government is targeting a limit of 6.55 million hectares of arable land for palm oil cultivation by 2023.