Increase oil palm yield to beat land shortage: Minister

Below is a story written by my colleague in Sabah, Roy Goh.

THE government is committed towards balancing the development of oil palm planted areas and the environment, says Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Land to develop oil palm is getting less across the country where about 4.5 million hectares have been alienated to plant it. Dompok said with that in mind, the way forward is to look at other options such as increasing the yield of the "golden crop".

"If we can double the yield it will be the same as opening land twice the size that has been alienated," he said after launching the two-day Orang Utan Conservation Colloquium coordinated by the Borneo Conservation Trust in Tuaran, Sabah, yesterday.

"The importance of this golden crop is reflected by its export contribution. Palm oil is the country's third largest export contributor with earnings of RM65.2 billion last year and an average of RM47.4 billion for the past three years. "

Taking note of the importance of the industry, its development needs to be harmonised with the demands of nature, in particular balancing the concept of 3Ps & 1D; people, planet, profits and sustainable development," he said.

He stressed the development of the industry should not be singled out as a primary cause for deforestation, depletion of biodiversity and displacement of endangered species.

"Malaysia has a very large land area which has been gazetted as forest reserve," he said, adding that 56 per cent or more than half of the land in the country is devoted and kept as forest reserves.

Sabah State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who was also present, said though industry players should not be solely blamed, they should also avoid providing merely "lip service".

"Planters need to practise self policing or self regulating of their operations toward ensuring the protection of the biodiversity in their surroundings. "They may not agree with all the claims made by select non-governmental organisations (NGOs) about the environment but I will say this, some merit the attention," he said, urging industry players to treat NGOs as friends not enemies.

Masidi also said that despite being home to 11,000 orang utans, Sabah should not be proud of the figure as 50 years ago, there were twice the number of the primates in the wild.

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Here's another story I came across at Australia's ABC news portal.
Palm oil boycott will hurt impoverished farmers

It is rich for activists in developed countries to oppose using developing world's palm oil in food manufacturing, writes Melbourne Institute of Public Affairs director Tim Wilson.

Over the past few weeks New Zealand-based green groups and activists have called for a boycott on Cadbury products because of the use of Malaysian palm oil in its chocolate. The boycott was prompted after Cadbury clarified using palm oil as one of the total vegetable oils used in its products.

And doing so has whipped activists into a tizz.

Opponents of palm oil claim farmers burn forest in poor countries to create available land for oil palm plantations. The claimed the cost is less forest, and threats to endangered species that rely on the forest for survival. They also argue that plantations have a lesser capacity as a carbon sink to offset carbon dioxide emissions.

These allegations cause Auckland Zoo removed Cadbury products from its shelves in August 2009. Anti-palm oil activists have also established a "Boycott Cadbury" Facebook group arguing "Only d*cks eat Cadbury".

But in doing so they aren't seeing oil palm plantations from the forest.

Palm oil is mostly produced across south-East Asia because it is a sustainable, high-yield product that helps small farmers lift themselves out of poverty. It is also a vital food supplement which can deliver up to a third of a person's daily Vitamin A requirements.

The benefits are so great that the anti-poverty Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a strong repayment rate from palm oil producers who take on loans. And growing palm oil provides an export industry for developing economies like Malaysia and Indonesia into markets like Australia and New Zealand.

But international NGO Friends of the Earth is campaigning against the ADB's support for palm oil despite the fact that oil palm planting actually helps alleviate poverty. According to a recent report they're "sceptical about a broad-based economic growth model lead (sic) by the private sector".

Rather than having evidence that growing palm oil won't increase living standards, FOE's reports expose that their agenda is motivated by ideology, not practical environmentalism.

And FOE's claims and motivations cannot be trusted. According to a 2007 press release the palm oil industry is involved in "illegally logging rainforests, setting forests on fire and violating the rights of local communities". The evidence they provide is a photo of a hilly area in Indonesia that 'proves' a forest fire. The problem is that the photo shows no flames amongst the trees, and based on the angle of the sun's reflection the photo was taken at either dawn or dusk, and the 'smoke' could just be mist.

FOE might be right, but the evidence they provide is more of a misting, than smoking, gun.

And FOE's ideological opposition to the use of palm oil won't deliver environmental benefits. The palm oil sourced by Cadbury is certified by GreenPalm - an organisation that certifies the oil has come from sustainable sources. And Cadbury is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil which was founded in part by international environmental NGO World Wildlife Fund.

FOE's opinion of supposed impact of palm oil on Malaysia's forest is questionable. Of Malaysia's forest, 16 per cent is zoned protected with 60 per cent of the country's total land mass allocated as forest. By comparison, the United Nation's minimum zoning target is 10 per cent and Europe's allocation of land mass to forest is only 25 per cent.

It is easy to be an armchair environmentalist from Australia or New Zealand. What consumers are missing is that the financial saving of not buying a block of chocolate is costing Malaysia's oil palm planters their livelihood.

According to their corporate website Cadbury introduced palm oil to "soften (their) chocolate and maintain affordability". Cadbury did so because it offered better value-for-money and that's good for business. But their decision is also providing a development dividend for the world's poor.

If consumers don't like the taste of chocolate with palm oil then they can vote with their wallets.

But by boycotting palm oil, what certain activists are actually doing, is shutting down the industry in developing countries, and with it their opportunity to raise living standards and increase wealth.

And if you think you can do without chocolate because it goes straight to your hips, imagine the cost to an impoverished farmer's family who can barely afford to eat.

3 Responses to Increase oil palm yield to beat land shortage: Minister

  1. Can we really treat these NGO's, Greenpeace and
    FOE as "friends" when they keep harping on anti-palm oil issues based on grossly unsound allegations such as destroying the forest and killing the orangutan?
    I think the right strategy is really to treat them as "TOP ENEMIES", by getting more and more friends in the world, such as World Growth and ABC Australia to expose the bad agenda of these enemies.
    The truth will always be truth but we need to communicate this truth to the public and the wider audience of the world, amid steadily and more effectively!
    MPOC is already doing a fantastic job by providing great leadership in this truth telling.
    But one organisation alone is not enough, the palm oil industry as a whole and all those involved should take urgent steps to come up with actions to combat these enemies!

  2. Hello Palm oil insider,

    In your previous comment you questioned whether Malaysia is doing enough to have Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth(FOE) to be "Our Friends" instead of being "Our Enemies". In just 10 days, you seemed to have changed your mind and that the right strategy is to treat them as "TOP ENEMIES".

    Wow! your opinions changed so fast.

    It is true that it is not enough just doing the right thing. What is JUST AS IMPORTANT is to be seen doing it, too.

    Take a few minutes and view the websites of palm oil regulatory bodies, palm oil suppliers, cooking oil and margarine manufacturers, oleochemical producers, bankers, brokers, insurers, cargo forwarders and retailers. Are they informative and easy to understand?

    Are all stakeholders (not just oil palm farmers) in the palm oil industry willing step up to the game and improve their communications skills?

  3. Dear Mr A.R.Rahman,
    It may appear that my opinion hs changed so fast in just 10 days but it is not really that fast!

    For your kind information, I was informed after my published comment that MPOB, MPOC has tried very hard to treat Greenpeace and FOE as good "friends" by courting them and showing them
    all the facts and truth about palm oil sustainability, but these groups are so stubborn
    and adamant that the only conclusion was them having "Hiden Agenda"!

    If you know Sun Tze's Strategy of War,knowing your strength and your ENEMIES' weakness is the best way to combat your "Top Enemies" with success.
    Get the palm oil and the world fraternity to expose the hiden agenda's of these shameless groups is one of the best ways to win the war!

    It appears that you are also a believer in palm oil and therefore your positive contribution will
    make palm oil success a number one poverty eradicational project for the whole wide world.
    With kind regards...

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