Monday, October 24, 2011

Sustainability in Aviation Fuel: Palm Oil is Part of the Solution

For many years, the aviation industry has been criticized for its high carbon GHG emission. Of the total global emissions, 56 % comes from burning of fossil fuels and 17 % from agriculture. The aviation industry alone contributes 649,000,000 tonnes of GHG emission annually which represents 2 to 3 % of the total globally! The Boeing Company and other aviation industry operators held a Forum in Kuala Lumpur recently to explore new sources of renewable biofuels for the aviation industry.

In comparison, calculations reveal that emissions from the oil palm industry are indeed very small. The world oil palm area of 14 million hectares is only 0.25% of global agricultural land. Therefore, the GHG emission from the oil palm industry is 0.25% x 17% or 0.04% of the total global GHG emission. At the country level, Malaysia’s oil palm cultivated area of 4.85 million hectares represents 34.6% of the world’s oil palm cultivated area and hence its GHG footprint is 34.6% x 0.04 % or 0.014% of the global GHG emission. Even doubling the cultivated area for oil palm in Malaysia would see a negligible increase of its GHG footprint to 0.028% of global emission.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Scam Behind the Australian Palm Oil Labelling Bill?

Western NGOs have been using the Victoria Zoos network to mount anti palm oil campaigns in Australia by making allegations linking palm oil production to deforestation and orang utan habitat destruction. Heightened publicity is needed in these campaigns and signatures of sympathizers have been carefully obtained to show public support. The campaign provides Western NGOs a platform for a much needed publicity profile. A Bill was then tabled in the EU and Australian Parliament seeking for palm oil to be mandatorily labeled instead of being included under the vegetable oils category as is customarily used for labelling all vegetable oils used in food products.

In the original version of the Bill which was submitted to the Australian Senate, certified sustainable palm oil was required to be labeled separately when RSPO certified palm oil is used in food products sold in Australia. Although the term referred in the Bill is to provide for “right of consumers to know to enable them to make an informed choice”, the intention was to encourage the use of certified sustainable palm oil while normal palm oil would be negatively perceived through the NGOs anti palm oil campaigns.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Australian Labelling Bill on Palm Oil Against WTO Provisions

If palm oil has to be labelled for all food products marketed in Australia, it is likely to disrupt trade. Imports of food products will be affected as the palm oil content of food manufactured overseas is not labelled specifically as required by the proposed bill. Local manufacturers will need to have new and specific labels to be used whenever palm oil is contained in a product. This will be a costly exercise for manufacturers.

One claim for justifying the palm oil labelling bill is to inform consumers on the presence of palm oil which has 50 % saturated fatty acids even though the total saturated fatty acid contents of the fats used would already be indicated in the nutrition panel of the food label. If palm kernel oil or coconut oil which has much higher (over 90 %) saturated fatty acid content is used, separate labelling for these oils is not required. The 'vegetable oil' label can continue to be used. This will be a discriminatory use of the labelling law against the interest of palm oil, and will violate the WTO provisions. Malaysia and Indonesia will be compelled to complain to the WTO to ask Australia to remove the discriminatory treatment on palm oil afforded by the palm oil labelling bill.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Washington Dialogue on Sustainable Palm Oil – NGOs Fail to Sabotage Event

Palm oil is green and sustainable too. Just like trees, it absorbs carbon and releases oxygenRecently, the Malaysian and Indonesian Ministers in charge of the palm oil industry had a roundtable dialogue with US NGOs, government officials and other food and non-food customers to discuss palm oil sustainability issues. Both the Malaysian and Indonesian delegation members were keen to hear green NGOs views and were prepared to provide counter viewpoints explaining how palm oil is produced sustainably in their respective countries.

What I have noticed lately is that the ultra green NGOs often fail to attend these dialogues. They prefer instead to raise their same old issues not in a face to face manner, but via their media channels on the internet, where they can repeat their infamous allegations on oil palm linking it to deforestation. This time, they broadcasted their counter views through the internet just a few days after the dialogue ended when the Ministers had returned home to their respective countries. In fact, our organizers informed us that the NGOs were so paranoid about the dialogue being held that they sent out emails twice unethically informing all invitees that the dialogue had been cancelled! The unscrupulous attempt to sabotage the meeting did not work and merit our condemnation. More than 50 important stakeholders including friendly NGOs attended the meeting. Nevertheless, we have to take this threat seriously. Next time around, the sabotage could be life threatening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Case of WENGOs Blindly Pushing for Labelling of Palm Oil

Palm oil is a very important commodity for smallhoders to improve their economy in Malaysia I was invited by the Senate Committee on Community Affairs in Canberra, Australia to give a testimony on the mandatory labeling of palm oil proposed under the Truth in Labeling – Palm Oil Bill. It seems that palm oil is now a target not only of Western Environmental NGOs (WENGOs), but also some ambitious Green Politicians of the developed world. On reflection, the WENGOs could be accused of taking the issue too far without thinking how their actions and allegations are un-justified and how these may affect the livelihoods of poor oil palm farmers in developing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

I would not blame the Green Politicians for their lack of knowledge on the oil palm industry; the utterances that they made to support the Bill in Canberra clearly revealed their ignorance. They claim for example, that palm oil is a ‘fruit’ oil and should not be labeled as a ‘vegetable’ oil. Obviously, the WENGOs have diligently fed their Green Senators with the necessary cannon powder to debate on the Bill, but it was soon pointed out at the hearing that olive oil, produced as a fruit oil in the EU and Australia is also classified internationally as a vegetable oil because it comes from a plant or vegetable source as opposed to animal fats which come from animal sources.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Palm Oil: How Greenies Threaten Jobs and Food Security

The Malaysian palm oil industry earned a healthy RM60 billion last year. This was an increase of RM 10 billion compared to 2009. Most plantation companies doubled their last quarterly profits compared to the previous year. The income generated by high prices as experienced by the palm oil industry led to rural townships around the country undergoing a mini economic boom. Clearly, the rural population benefited the most from the high prices of palm oil, rubber, cocoa and even pepper which form the major plantation commodities produced in Malaysia.

The economic contribution of palm oil and other plantation commodities provided the assurance of a remunerative source of income and unlimited employment opportunities throughout the year for the people of Malaysia. A day’s work of harvesting oil palm fruits or tapping rubber trees for latex can provide a person with an income of more than US $30. In a country where two meals per day would cost only US $4, such an income is rather remunerative. Nobody should be deprived of a better life or even resort to begging as long as he or she is willing to put in a few hours of work in a day in our oil palm or rubber plantations. Malaysia enjoys almost full employment which also means that labour shortages exist especially in the plantation sector.