EU palm oil ban needs huge dialogue

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By AFIF ABD HALIM

The European business community believes the proposed palm oil import ban requires an enormous amount of dialogues among stakeholders to understand each other’s position better.

The European Union (EU) Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EUMCCI) CEO Roberto Benetello (picture) told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that both parties — exporter countries like Malaysia and the EU countries as importers — need to understand each other’s position in order to have a better debate in the future.

“It’s important for Malaysia to understand the expectations from Europe in terms of sustainability, as much as the Europeans to understand what progress has been made here (in Malaysia) to improve the sustainability aspect and get the real picture of the current situation,” Benetello told TMR on the sidelines of the Europa Awards for Sustainability 2018 soft launch in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

For EUMCCI, Benetello said the business community is keen to facilitate the discussion moving forward.

At present, the EU palm oil ban rhetorics have resulted in aggressiveness, with threat of product bans by both parties.

The EU Parliament has voted in January 2018 for the Renewal Energy Directive II to ban the usage of palm biodiesel from January 2021.

Malaysia has continuously opposed such a move that is deemed protectionist, with the latest being the establishment of a palm oil war room (POWR) to better coordinate efforts among government agencies to dismantle global barriers to palm oil trade The POWR was set up by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, headed by its secretary general Datuk K Yogeesvaran in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Meanwhile, on sustainable palm oil merit, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) global outreach and engagement director Stefano Savi said the agenda should be seen as objective and needs to be promoted, especially among the smallholders for economic, social and environmental benefits.

“Put aside the political discussion. We need to show people that there is something for them in the efforts towards sustainability,” Savi, who was also present at the event, told TMR.

Savi said one of the biggest challenges to get these smallholders certified is to gather them, say the suppliers of the same palm oil mill, at one place and facilitate the certification process as a group.

Meanwhile, EUMCCI is introducing a new category — Palm Oil Sustainability Leader — into the Europa Awards for Sustainability 2018 this time around, in addition to the other five categories of Best Sustainability Reporting, Best Innovation in Sustainability, Best Social Impact, Best Environment Impact and Best Sustainability Leader.

The second edition of the award targets 150 entries this year, compared to 100 submissions recorded last year.

Applications are open to any companies in Malaysia that have sustainability agendas from June 1-Oct 31, 2018.

The nomination process will be culminated in the Europa Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner on Nov 22, 2018.