American television talk show host and respected cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Mehmet Oz, has recently discovered the ‘miraculous’ health benefits of red palm oil.
The palm oil industry is funding conservation efforts for the endangered banteng (otherwise known as wild cattle). The Danau Girang Field Centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department received RM1 million funding from the Sime Darby Foundation for a banteng conservation project.
Experts and industry officials throughout Europe are speaking out in support of Malaysian palm oil amid a visit by Malaysian officials including Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and representatives of the Malaysian palm oil industry. Minister Dompok and a delegation of Malaysian government and industry officials are visiting key European markets to meet with counterparts to highlight Malaysian businesses and exports.
In Bucharest, a leading cooking fats and oils supplier Render Com explained the company’s preference for importing Malaysian palm oil. Render Com Director General Virginia Stancu stated, We import Malaysian palm oil due to the positive feedback received from our customers and we foresee a market uptrend towards the end of the year. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council will be hosting a Palm Oil Trade Seminar in Bucharest on September 18.
The Malaysian delegation’s visit to Bucharest followed a visit to France, a key market for palm oil exports where food producers export throughout Europe and the world. During their visit to France, Minister Dompok met with French Minister for Agriculture Stephane Le Foll and French journalists to communicate the important role of palm oil to a healthy and sustainable diet.
The question of palm oil’s sustainability and health benefits was also the focus of analysis by a France-based research organization, the Institut economique Molinari. Researchers with the institute, following a rising debate in France about palm oil, sought to gain a better understanding of why palm oil is such a controversial and much debated food source. Far from the maligned food source that environmental NGOs claim it to be, the Institute found that palm oil has in fact a key role to play in both producer and consumer markets the researchers wrote in the French financial daily La Tribune.
[M]ost activists justify their actions on environmental grounds and pressure manufacturers and retailers to give up on palm oil. Such an attitude, however, is short sighted, the authors concluded. It will ultimately fail to achieve the alleged broader goals of environmental remediation and improvements in the living standard of poorer populations, since no other source of vegetable oil than palm oil can actually spare more land and deliver more accessible, abundant and affordable calories to people worldwide.
Experts and industry officials speaking out in favor of Malaysian palm oil reflects a clear disconnect between public perception of Malaysian palm oil versus the scientific and industry consensus of its important role as a sustainable and healthy food source. With environmental NGOs engaging in high profile misinformation campaigns, it is becoming clear that consumers are being misled at the cost of their health, and the ability for countries like Malaysia to develop sustainably.
The palm oil industry has been much in the news lately over allegations about its effects on wildlife habitats and the region’s ecological health.
Much of the conversation has been marred by misconceptions and outright falsehoods emanating from activist groups based in Europe. As the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil meets this week in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the present and future of the industry, an honest assessment of the industry and its impact on the economy and environment is in order.
The palm oil industry has emerged as a critically important source of economic vitality for Malaysia and the broader region over the past two decades. And it is important to understand what has been driving this growth.
We produce an excellent product and should not apologise for that fact. Palm oil has turned out to be a versatile and valuable vegetable oil. In many respects, it is the single best vegetable oil on the global market. It is used as a cooking oil throughout Asia, as a food ingredient in the global processed food trade and as a biofuel powering transport systems across the planet. It is because of the enormous value added to consumers – and, as we will see in a moment, to the planet itself – that palm oil has become so much in demand.
In the process, this growth in the palm oil industry has provided badly needed jobs to many parts of the developing world, from Asia to Africa to Latin America. In Malaysia alone, the palm oil industry directly accounts for close to half a million jobs. The resultant tax revenues fill the public’s coffers and sustain our infrastructure and education systems.
Palm oil is one of many natural endowments in this part of the world – others include cocoa, coconuts, rubber, sugar – the cultivation of which has made it possible for nations to generate an aspirational middle class, the backbone of all economically self-sufficient societies.
None of these facts is appreciated by our critics who come from wealthy developed countries and have no sense of the genuine challenges facing the developing world. Instead, they focus on the potential risks and problems attendant to natural resource harvesting. So let’s look at Malaysia’s record in historical context.
Throughout their history, many European nations plundered their natural resources, such as forest lands. They gave no thought at the time to the long-term consequences of their rapid exploitation.
Indeed, this short-sightedness drove their colonial period. As they exhausted their domestic resources, they travelled the world, uninvited, looking to exploit the natural endowments of other nations.
Europeans badly overharvested their lands, and their forests and other natural endowments have never fully recovered from that earlier period.
Contrast this history with Malaysia’s. As the commercial palm oil sector developed, industry teamed up with policymakers to ensure that Malaysia’s natural endowments would be respected while permitting the nation to harness the economic value of its resources for the benefit of the public. As a result, Malaysia has put 50 per cent of its land off-limits to commercial harvesting. This is a policy that takes the prudent long view, and it is one we wholeheartedly support.
In addition, the industry has partnered with government to ensure that the commercial harvesting that takes place limits the impact on the broader ecosystem and wildlife habitats.
Of special concern are Malaysian orang-utans who live and thrive in our forest lands. One reason for setting such a large percentage of the country’s natural habitat off-limits – a percentage that is by orders of magnitude larger than any European nation – is to protect orang-utans and many other species of wildlife. And so industry and government have worked hand in glove to protect orang-utans with a variety of special protection programmes.
There is an irony to the anti-palm-oil campaigns that have been launched by a small group of activist organisations in London and northern Europe. In some respects, palm oil is the greenest of all the world’s vegetable oils. Its caloric density is much higher than corn, soya or rapeseed oil, meaning it has more nutritional bang for your buck than alternatives. This means its relative ecological footprint is smaller.
What’s more, as a transport fuel, it is far more energy-efficient than its global competitors, especially ethanol and rapeseed oil. This, too, means that its ecological footprint is smaller on a relative basis than other offerings.
As the world desperately seeks a way beyond the era of carbon-rich, dirty fuels – particularly coal and petroleum that were used by Europeans to power their economic rise – vegetable oils from Asia have emerged as an important part of the planet’s fuel mix. So it is unfortunate and somewhat odd that Europeans – who bear a large measure of responsibility for the carbon crisis the world confronts today – would demonise the greenest of all the vegetable oils on the market. Why have they not demonised corn and rapeseed oil as well? Perhaps it is because that is what their nations produce domestically.
From almost its very beginning, the palm oil industry has laboured to produce environmentally responsible and sustainable palm oil, even willing to see the prices of its products rise in the marketplace as a result (sometimes to the point of alienating customers). But activist groups continue to move the goal lines, making new demands that will do little to actually help the environment. Meanwhile, the myriad benefits of sustainable palm oil, which I have only barely touched on here, are ignored by these same critics. They can’t have it both ways.
The palm oil industry provides jobs and incomes to those who need it; satisfies consumer demand for quality cooking and food ingredients; and is powering a greener energy future across the planet. If only all industries, or activist groups, could boast such achievements, the world would be a better place.
The Oil Palm launches today a series on issues impacting the global palm oil industry. In today’s first edition, freelance journalist Alex Singleton, goes deep into the heart of the Borneo to hear from experts on the state of the orang-utan and to explore the necessity of a ‘No Kill’ policy.
Sandakan, Sabah – If you listen to Western campaigners, you’ll hear that palm oil is destroying the rainforest. You’ll be told that the crop is wiping out the orangutan. But it turns out that neither of these claims is true. I went to Malaysia to find the truth – and discovered that lots the Western NGOs, who pontificate about oil palm from their air-conditioned offices in Brussels, Islington and Manhattan, have no idea what they are talking about.
What I found was a government and an industry committed to protect orangutans and the forest. Major palm oil exporters such as Sime Darby were bankrolling environmental projects, both through direct funding and through a levy the sector pays on every export.
According to Hubert Petol of the Sabah Forestry Department: “We have a lot of help from the palm oil companies. They give us massive funding for reforestation, wildlife monitoring, checking stations and enforcing the law.” But he is sceptical of the work of Western NGOs: “The difference between those NGOs and us is that we are doing the conservation, not just promoting it. The money is used on the ground: it goes to the local people. We give people money to make an alternative living [rather than expanding into the forest, growing low-yield crops]. This includes growing fruit trees, which feed the orangutans. In Sabah, the number of orangutans has stabalised.”
At the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, also in the Malaysian state of Sabah, orphaned orangutans who have strayed onto palm oil fields are rehoused. They are looked after in a nursery and taught to climb and look after themselves, before being let out into the natural world.
I had expected some criticism, here, of the oil palm companies. But Sylvia Alsisto of the Centre had no complaints: “Palm oil companies respect the law – they are afraid of it. People can just kill orangutans, but we have co-operation with palm oil companies and they know that these animals are protected.” She described calls by some Western NGOs for a new “no kill policy” as “superfluous”, adding that: “It’s really sad when people get the wrong picture. Look at the number of the organ-utans we’ve got. We have people calling us from palm oil plantations asking us for help protecting them.”
What’s more, the major oil palm companies routinely give up land to help protect animals. “The big companies are happy to give up land for elephant corridors,” Rosa Sipangkui of the Saba Wildlife Department told me. “It means the elephants won’t go onto their plantations.” For the smallholders, she explained that a Japanese charity raises funds to buy elephant corridors. “But the big plantations use their corporate social responsibility policies and don’t need to be paid”.
Another of the projects funded by the industry is the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, supported by over $3,000,000 from producers, and an equal amount from the Malaysian government. This, among other initiatives, funds a Jungle Patrol Unit at the Tangkulap-Pinangah Forest Reserve, to prevent poaching. Such industry initiatives could be found throughout Malaysian Borneo.
OK, you may be saying: the industry pays for conservation. But what about the accusation, commonplace in Europe, that palm oil is destroying the rainforest? Not true, according to one of the world’s top scientific experts on the rainforest. I sat in the audience when Dr Glen Reynolds CBE, from Britain’s Royal Society, spoke on the Malaysian rainforest. “There’s no conversion of primary forest to oil palm. It’s degraded forest to oil palm,” he said. Reynolds’ project is a huge eco-biodiversity project, funded by significant grants from oil palm companies such as Sime Darby, who seem keen to support the improvement of science-based environmental research in Borneo. Reynolds also agreed that environmental NGOs’ focus on the orang-utan was not supported by science: in fact, for the rainforest ecosystem, smaller (but less cute) creatures such as ants or termites were far more important and should receive more focus and attention, rather than orangutans which have comparably little positive impact on the rainforest ecosystem. Contrary to all the noise from NGOs, it turns out that oil palm is being grown as a replacement for less profitable crops, such as rubber and coffee.
Of course, over the past century, the Malaysian people have cut down forest. But so have all the Europeans and Americans. In fact, tree cover in the United States is now only 35%, while the UK is under 12%. In Malaysia, tree cover is over 50%, and over the past 20 years, the Malaysian government has stuck to a UN commitment made at the 1992 Rio Summit to protect at least 50% of its forest.
So much for the claims, so beloved by NGOs, that Malaysia is rapidly and irresponsibly wiping out its forest. It has done rather better than most of the rich countries.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if the NGOs who criticise the Malaysians for growing crops have really thought through the alternatives. I mean, what should poor Malaysians do if they have to replant all their farmland with forest? Live in trees? Commit hari kari?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”. Yet if the Malaysians did what some of the more hysterical NGOs seem to want and stopped using any land at all, those essential rights would disappear. The country would simply descend into an economic abyss.
Or maybe the NGOs just want the plantation of oil palm to stop. But that would be environmentally idiotic. Why? Well, oil palm is the most land-efficient crop that the Malaysians have discovered. To generate the same level of export revenue with any other crop, the Malaysians would need to use much more land. And let’s face it: the real choice is not between forest and oil palm, but between oil palm and other crops. On that basis, Westerners ought to be cheering the high yields from oil palm, not attacking the crop.
And the yields per hectare are growing. Thanks to hybridisation, oil palms are producing increasing amounts of oil – and palm oil is by far the most environmentally efficient vegetable oil. By 2050, it is estimated that population growth will mean the world will need to produce an extra 9.3 billion tonnes of vegetable oil. If this is produced from soyabeans, this will require the cultivation of 333 million more hectares of land. If from oil palms, this will only require 25 million – and much of the growth will end up being in Africa. Which do you think is the better choice?
What we see in Malaysia is a people genuinely moving towards the Millennium Development Goals. Its government estimates that absolute poverty will be abolished by 2020.
The country is balancing sound environmental stewardship with economic growth. And isn’t that the whole point of is sustainable development?
This is the first article in a series by British freelance journalist Alex Singleton. In future series, Singleton will explore vexing questions faced by the industry, including uptake of certified palm oil by Western multinationals, the role of organizations like WWF in promoting palm oil and the impact of palm oil on small farmers.
Orang-utan population has increased by over 20 percent within Sabah’s lower Kinabatangan since the first census was done seven years ago.
According to orang-utan scientist Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, the number of orang-utans living within totally protected areas has increased from 38 percent to 60 percent. Dr Ancrenaz is co-director of the local NGO – HUTAN Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN-KOCP).
Speaking to Malaysia media, Ancrenaz indicated that the increasing orang-utan population living in the lower Kinabatangan reflected a strong government commitment to protect orang-utan habitat.
According to media reports, the Sabah Forestry Department recently increased the areas of protected forest reserves to help further the conservation of orang-utans and other species such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sunbear, and hornbills.
Some Western NGOs have accused the agricultural sector of driving orang-utan population decline, but emerging research and orang-utan population data indicates that Malaysian conservation efforts by both government and industry are leading to significant successes.
Land use in Malaysia is well regulated, with the Malaysian palm oil industry operating on lands zoned for agricultural purposes. This ensures that sufficient land is allocated to other functions, such as wildlife and biodiversity conservation.
According to the FAO, Malaysia has protected approximately 5.16 million ha of forests – an area larger then Denmark. This protected area represents almost 30 per cent of Malaysia forests, or 15.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total land area.
Malaysian palm oil companies leading conservation efforts the palm oil industry is funding conservation efforts for the endangered banteng (otherwise known as wild cattle). The Danau Girang Field Centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department received RM1 million funding from the Sime Darby Foundation for a banteng conservation project.
The funding was allocated to the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), and was part of Sime Darby’s “Big 9” programme which aims to protect and conserve nine animal species.
The foundation has committed a total of RM80mil towards conservation of sun bears, orang-utans, Asian elephant and Sunda clouded leopards, hornbill, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger.
Danau Girang Field Centre director, Dr Benoit Goossens, said the funding would go towards a three-year project to assess the conservation status of the banteng.
According to Goossens, “education and capacity building have always been a priority for the Sime Darby Foundation, and as such, the project will also include training of a Malaysian master student and two local field research assistants.”
Sabah Wildlife Department also commended efforts by the palm oil company, with state director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu commenting that funds from the Sime Darby Foundation were vital for successful government projects that conserve and manage the banteng in Sabah.
Orang-utan population has increased by over 20 percent within Sabah’s lower Kinabatangan since the first census was done seven years ago.
http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/11/03/kubota-to-build-cutting-edge-biogas-plant-industry-in-swak/Malaysian palm oil industry has demonstrated ongoing commitment to improving sustainability outputs, with the announcement that mill operators in the Malaysian State of Sarawak will implement a state of the art biogas plant alongside a new palm oil mill.
The palm oil industry offers significant socioeconomic benefits in South East Asia, according to a recent study undertaken by the World Agroforestry Centre.