Monday, July 4

Oil palm cultivation is reforestration, planters’ national seminar told

4

SIBU: Oil palm plantation is reforestration and not the deforestration of tropical rainforest in both Malaysia and Indonesia as perceived by western environmental non-governmental organisations (Wengo’s), says Sarawak Plantation Bhd chairman Datuk Amar Hamed Sepawi.

“These Wengo’s are out to demonise the use of oil palm in the market.

“They create their own environmental criteria to influence their governments to restrict giving financial aid/financing to developing tropical countries keen to plant oil palm,” he said in his paper at the 10th Incorporated Society of Planters national seminar here.

Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud declared open the three-day seminar yesterday attended by about 1,000 participants nationwide.

Hamed said oil palm only covers 4.5 per cent of Indonesia’s land mass and 15 per cent in Malaysia, adding oil palm is a major contributor to socio-economic development especially in alleviating poverty in the tropics.

“These actions by Wengo’s are becoming a worrying trend.

“They are becoming prosecutor and judge at the same time by banning, restricting and imposing trade barriers.

“Western nations are using their NGOs’ arguments and negative campaigns as a basis for developing policies against importation of palm oil.

“The NGOs are also challenging WTO regulation for fairness in free trade,” he said.

Hamed said the Malaysian and Indonesian governments should present their counterparts in the EU and USA comprehensive facts and scientific evidence to counter the Wengo’s’ negative publicity.

He said the industry in both countries has existed for over 100 years with some planters in their third or fourth cycle of planting.

“Over the years Good Management Practices (GMPs) and standard operating procedures have been developed and practised to ensure sustainability of the industry.

“There is no doubt in our minds the industry will continue to be sustainable in the forseeable future,” he said.

He also said oil palm is a very important strategic crop and continues to contribute very significantly to the social and economic development in both countries.

He noted the palm oil organisations in the country like MPIC, MPOB and PORAM as well as the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission (IPOC) have worked very closely together by developing Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) to promote sustainable oil palm production.

With the world population projected to grow to nine billion in 2043 from seven billion in 2011 there will be a corresponding increase in demand for land for the production of oils and fats, with severe competition for arable land worldwide, he added.

To meet this demand, he said, soya bean would need 15 million hectares a year while oil palm would only need 1.5 million hectares.

Hamed said Malaysia has only planted 4.5 million hectares of oil palm, adding the vocal Wengo’s are from countries where almost 90 per cent of the land has been deforested and 60 per cent actually used for agriculture.

“This development contributes to their GDP of US$50,000 per year as compared to our GPD at US$9,000 and Indonesia at US$3,000.

“It is obvious that the developed countries have achieved their present prosperity through the deforestration of their forests.

“Today they are pressing the developing countries not to cut their forests which essentially means they do not want them to achieve economic growth, prosperity and affluence,” he said. —Bernama