Stop demonizing palm oil, say estate owners

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KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 22): Palm oil is not a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, is a cheap and competitive oil, and is not responsible for most forest clearings, the Malaysian Estate Owners' Association (MEOA) said today as it called for the demonizing of palm oil to be stopped.

In a statement, it said the continued and systematic demonization of the crop is discriminatory and shows those who are party to it are not holistic in presenting facts about the edible oil.

Pointing to the latest anti-palm oil by a small UK-based supermarket chain, MEOA questioned as to why the advertisement does not also address other sectors and edible oil crops that are responsible for more deforestation than palm oil.

The advertisement was intended to be aired over the Christmas season but has been banned by the United Kingdom's regulatory advertising authority Clearcast for being "political" in nature. Clearcast is responsible for vetting ads before they are broadcast to the public.

MEOA said palm oil only contributes 0.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The largest contributor from the agriculture sector is ruminant farming, yet there are no calls by any environmental organisation for a ban on beef or lamb production, MEOA said.

"In fact, 2 million hectares of land are cleared annually for cattle farming alone. Another 480,000 hectares of land are cleared annually to make way for soya beans to sustain the feed industry for animals," it noted.

It also stressed that palm oil is a cheap and competitive oil because it has high yields — 4 to 10 times those of other vegetable oils per unit area of land — and because its cultivation and production involves a well-managed industry.

"We are proud that oil palms that produce palm oil occupy just 0.001% of total global land area and 0.4% of the world's area under agriculture, yet contributes over 35% of global oils and fats," MEOA said.

The organisation also highlighted that over the past 100 years, only 19 million hectares of land have been cleared globally for palm oil cultivation, in contrast to the 14.5 million hectares that have been cleared for soya bean cultivation in just the last 10 years.

"One wonders why Greenpeace, which created the advertisement for the UK supermarket chain, has not mounted any campaign against deforestation for soya bean planting. And mind you, it is well known that soya beans cater to the beef industry, where cattle are huge emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas," it added.

It went on to say that with a growing world population, the world needs more palm oil to combat global hunger and malnourishment.

"Harming this industry via a sustained negative campaign goes against the grain of these objectives," it noted, adding palm oil is an affordable source of nourishment, rich in nutrients like carotenes and vitamins A and E, and not just as a dietary fat.

"Attempts to denigrate and demonize Palm Oil affect the livelihoods of millions of innocent and hardworking people. These attempts have to stop. Enough is enough. What do this UK supermarket chain and Greenpeace want to achieve? Reduce the demand for Palm Oil and substitute it with some other edible oil, which entails greater deforestation?" MEOA said.

Established in 1931, MEOA's mission is to promote, foster and protect the interests of the Malaysian plantation industry.