KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (Bernama) — European Union (EU) Members of Parliament (MPs) are impressed with the palm oil industry’s contribution towards creating wealth and economic growth for Malaysia.
Danish MP Dan Jorgensen, who is Vice-Chairman of the Environment Committee and Member of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament said: “We think palm oil has contributed towards creating wealth and the growth of the country.
“As a whole, I think, it has helped take people out of poverty, which is a very positive thing.
“The challenge now is the sustainability of the commodity. Even though progress has been made, there is still the possibility of becoming better in this area,” he said after a Stakeholder Roundtable Discussion on Issues Related to Biodiversity and the Sustainability of Malaysian Palm Oil here last Friday.
Jorgensen was on a week-long visit to Malaysia together with two other EU MPs, Martin J. Callanan (Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) and Ole K Christensen (Member of the ACP-EU Committee).
Also present at the roundtable was Malaysia’s Ambassador to the EU Datuk Hussein Haniff and Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron.
Jorgensen said the next decade would continue to see an increase in the focus on sustainability, as a competition criteria on the global stage, whether for fuel food or any other commodity.
“We also think that from the sustainability point of view, palm oil has great potential compared to other oils,” he added.
Many have voiced concerned concern over the new sustainability criteria in the European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED), due to come into force from Dec 5 this year and its impact on palm oil exporting countries like Malaysia.
On that matter, Jorgensen expressed the willingness of MPs to assist Malaysia in ensuring there is no discrimination against the country’s palm oil export to the region.
“Firstly, we do not want any discrimination at all of the palm oil sector. We have promised our friends in the industry here to help them in discussions that we have in the EU on different criteria.
“If there has been any discrimination, we will do everthing possible to change it.
“Secondly, we are at the same time, very committed to the sustainability criteria,” he explained.
The sustainability criteria is related to two issues, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels and the land used to produce the biofuels.
During their stay in Malaysia, the MPs had the opportunity to visit the Felda Trolak land scheme.
According to Jorgensen, the Malaysian palm oil industry can help itself by making the issues surrounding it irrelevant, by starting to trap the methane in the mills.
“It is already being done in some mills. If it was done in general and there was legislation for this, it would help. But this is just a recommendation,” he said.
Christensen also noted that in many parts of western Europe, there was the perception that palm oil is a bad thing because rainforests’ are being destroyed in order to make way for plantations.
“That’s what many people believe. So, we are very gratified to get assurances here, that Malaysia has very strict laws in place to ensure no more forests are destroyed,” he said.
He also said that it was a challenge to get this point of view across to a lot of western audiences.
When asked whether if the RED would affect Malaysian palm oil exports to the EU, Callanan said in the short term, the new directive would not.
He said this was because the amount of Malaysian palm oil used for biofuel is very small.
Callanan said only 18 per cent of Malaysia’s palm oil exports actually go to the EU.
“Obviously, we understand your concerns that the EU legislation might spread to other countries that Malaysia exports to.But only two per cent of palm oil is used for biofuels,” he added.