Govt steps up campaign against anti-palm oil

pic by TMR FILE

THE government is intensifying its campaign against the European Union’s (EU) anti-palm oil initiatives, via sponsorship on studies to highlight palm oil’s benefits as well as engaging industry experts as spokespersons on the international stage.

The new strategy comes after the government announced its plan to pursue legal action against the EU’s policy via the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism.

The WTO can order members to remove any trade barriers if it finds that the policies breach free trade rules.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali yesterday said his ministry is forming a legal team with the cooperation of the Attorney General’s Chambers to file the lawsuit against the EU, similar to the action taken by Indonesia.

“We are facing an aggressive campaign from the EU so our counter-strategies must be both defensive and offensive,” he told the Dewan Rakyat in response to a supplementary question on the boycott of palm oil products by Datuk Jalaluddin Alias (Barisan Nasional-Jelebu).

Mohd Khairuddin had previously said that policies adopted by the EU under its Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) were against free trade practices and had caused restrictions on sustainability efforts that are being implemented in Malaysia.

The RED II aims to stop the use of crops that cause deforestation in transportation fuel by 2030.

Mohd Khairuddin said studies that support the RED II lacked scientific credibility and transparency.

“There were many assumptions made which gave a false impression of the sustainable practices applied in the oil palm industry,” he said.

Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia, with the two countries producing 85% of global palm oil.

Mohd Khairuddin said unfair actions by the EU would adversely affect the livelihood of over three million locals, including half a million smallholders, involved in the industry’s supply chain.

The EU is one of Malaysia’s top export destinations for palm oil with total exports at 932,879 metric tonnes (MT) from January to June 2020. The EU is second only to China with total exports of 1.26 million MT.

Exports to India, the world’s largest palm oil buyer, slumped to a record low of 397,151MT over the same period compared to 2.59 million MT the year prior following a diplomatic row between the two countries.

India has since resumed its purchase of Malaysian palm oil after Putrajaya in May agreed to buy 100,000 tonnes of rice from India for shipment in May and June.

The purchase this year is twice the average annual volume of rice Malaysia has imported from India over the last five years, following the decision by Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia to place temporary curbs on their rice exports amid fears of food shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In another development, Mohd Khairuddin said his ministry is planning to replace the “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign, launched by his predecessor in March last year, with a “Sawit Anugerah Tuhan” slogan.