Plantation industry urged to adopt circular economy

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE

THE Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities is working closely with key stakeholders to future-proof the palm oil industry.

Its Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said the move includes engaging with Indonesia and taking steps towards improving practices and sustainability in the palm oil industry while dismantling all the barriers to compete healthily in the international market.

“We are also looking into new markets like Japan and Central Asia to expand our palm oil export. We are also working on more aggressive marketing efforts to grow our share,” she said in her speech during the virtual opening ceremony of Future-Proofed Palm Oil Conference yesterday.

Zuraida stated that her ministry is keen to adopt a circular economy in the palm oil industry to increase the revenue from oil palm biomass and address issues like climate change.

She encouraged plantations to adopt mechanisation and automation to reduce the dependency on labour and increase efficiency, as well as adopt carbon neutrality practices and energy efficient technologies to lower carbon footprint in oil palm processing.

She added that the sector has a promising future as the world’s population and the global demand for vegetable oils is on the rise.

World consumption of vegetable oils has doubled in the past two decades from 87 million tonnes in 2000-2001 to 208 million tonnes in 2020-2021.

Zuraida stated that the palm oil industry has helped lift millions of people out of poverty in producer countries by creating millions of jobs and enabled tens of thousands of smallholders to own land.

Despite being certified to the relevant criteria on greenhouse gas emission, biodiversity and labour, the negative narratives against the palm oil industry have been prolonged for years.

“The negativities are being deeply entrenched into the minds of consumers globally and this is alarming as it could influence other major export destinations to follow suit against oil palm,” she said.

Taking into account the impact of such anti-palm oil activities, Zuraida said her ministry and various related agencies have been putting in concerted and protracted efforts to showcase the Malaysian palm oil industry as a responsible and environmentally friendly industry.

She noted that the Malaysia Palm Oil Council through its Malaysia Palm Oil Green Conservation Fund is streaming the fund collected from the palm oil producers for the purpose of reforestation and wildlife conservation in Malaysia.

“We emphasise for the plantation owners to prioritise the welfare of the workers. We are also developing policy on plantation workers’ housing so that it would be more organised with international standards that it needs to adhere to and meet the requirements of the health and human resources ministries,” she added.

Separately, Zuraida said she had met the European Union (EU) ambassador to Malaysia Michalis Rokas on Monday, and the EU and Malaysia have agreed to work together to overcome misconceptions about palm oil besides having a better understanding regarding EU’s new legislation affecting the agri-commodities sector.

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