Dr Lim: Appoint envoy to counter lies about palm oil

Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik has always delivered lively speeches when he was Primary Industries Minister from 1986 to 2004. His sharp wit and dry humour make him a favourite among journalists. Yesterday, he packed the hall with laughter, when he pitched for a US$20,000 salaried job, to counter smear campaign against palm oil in the US and Europe. My colleague Zaidi Ismail reports from PIPOC 2009 in Kuala Lumpur.

TUN Dr Lim Keng Yaik, a former primary industries minister, has proposed that Malaysia appoint an oil palm ambassador to the US and Europe to counter all the negative perceptions and unfounded allegations made against the commodity.

The Primary Industries Ministry is now known as the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry.

Dr Lim said the ambassador can be dispatched on the ground straight away to do "battle" with international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) before any further damage is made on the commodity. "The ambassador should be smart like me or better than me. The person should be articulate and be able to out-smart, out-debate and out-talk all these NGOs who are spreading lies about palm oil and pay the ambassador US$20,000 a month (RM67,600).

"Equipped with facts and figures, the ambassador should be able to dispel all their unfounded allegations and paint a true picture on oil palm trees," Dr Lim said in his keynote address at the International Palm Oil Congress 2009 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said the lies hurled by the NGOs is similar to the anti palm oil smear campaign back in the 1980s, launched by the American Soybean Association under the guise that palm oil is harmful to human health. "This time, the NGOs are back at it again under the guise that oil palm trees destroy the environment and orang utans. I call on the industry to fight back and act before it is too late."

In a no-holds barred speech, Dr Lim said the attacks are launched by oil palm rivals such as soybean and rapeseed, which are unable to compete with oil palm which now controls 30 per cent of the world's edible oils and fats market compared with less than 10 per cent in the 1980s. "They failed in the 1980s to smear palm oil because they forgot that I am a medically trained doctor and now they realise palm oil is not harmful to health compared with trans fat.

"Now they are hitting us under the belt and using the orang utan to scare away the consumers. We should fight back and the government is doing all it can by sending trade missions," he added.

He said the world's 17 edible oils and fats should not grapple with each other for market position as the world is big enough for all the edible oils. Rather, they should ask themselves whether the industry is big enough to supply the world's growing population.

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