KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said Sarawak palm oil producers are now under threat from the European Union (EU) ban.
Sarawakians, in particular, should be aware of a looming threat to our palm oil exports that will potentially impact the state’s revenues and many of our communities, said Uggah who is also Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development.
“In Sarawak, there are many oil palm growers; either they are independent smallholders, organised smallholders under Salcra (Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) or Felcra (Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) or those participating on a joint-venture with the private sector under Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA or Pelita).
“Salcra manages 19 oil palm estates with 51,072 hectares and five palm oil mills stretching from Lundu District in the west to Roban in the east. Our authorities and small farmer organisations led by Salcra are determined to prevent this threat,” he said in a statement delivered to The Borneo Post yesterday.
“The threat is that the European Union is proposing to ban palm oil biofuels, as part of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), an EU law that oversees all rules on renewable energy, including palm oil biofuels. Two committees in the European Parliament have voted to ban palm oil biofuels under the RED directive in the past two months,” said Uggah, who is also the Salcra chairman.
“Firstly, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in October of 2017 to ban palm oil biofuels under RED. Then in November, this proposed ban on palm oil biofuels was endorsed by the Parliament’s Industry, Research & Energy Committee.
“The final decision will be taken after a negotiation between EU governments (known collectively as the Council) and the European Parliament,” Uggah said, adding the danger for Malaysia and Sarawak is that the ban on palm oil biofuels would be upheld.
Europe is a big market for Malaysian palm oil biofuels: around 60 per cent of Malaysia’s palm oil exports to the EU are now in the non-food sector, and biofuels make up a significant proportion. Billions of ringgit of palm oil income from Sarawak and other states in Malaysia would simply disappear. The impact would be huge, more so for small farmers.
Salcra’s objective is to create employment opportunity in the agriculture sector and provide a reasonable standard of living to the rural population through stable and improved level of income on sustainable basis. An EU ban on palm oil biofuels would hinder these objectives, he pointed out.
Salcra is helping improve the social and economic well-being and transformation of the rural people where it operates, as it is committed to sustainability and social responsibility in its mode of operations. Safety and health, as well as good agricultural practices are key engagements of Salcra.
“What can we do to prevent this happening? Malaysian small farmers are joining together to oppose the EU’s plans with a firm voice. I have directed Salcra to join a major new campaign ‘Faces of Palm Oil’, which will include Felda, Doppa and NASH. I urge all Sarawakians to visit the website http://www.facesofpalmoil.org and provide support,” he said.
Felda is Federal Land Development Authority while Doppa is Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association and NASH refers to National Association of Smallholders Malaysia.
“Our government, diplomats and other senior officials are also acting on behalf of our small farmers. Communication with European ministers is extremely important in defending the rights of our small farmers. We can explain Malaysia’s position, and the determination of our small farmers, and those of us inside the government to oppose the EU’s ban,” he added.
“The coming months are a decision-making time. The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) will be concluded in Brussels in the early part of this year. This means that the future of Malaysian palm oil biofuel exports to Europe will be decided – either positively or negatively – within a couple of months. We do not have any time to lose, which is why the small farmer campaign is so important and timely.
“We must not take any chances: the livelihoods and incomes of tens of thousands of Sarawak’s small farmers are at stake. I urge all readers to join us in opposing the EU’s proposed ban on palm oil biofuels, which would undermine Sarawak’s agricultural success story,” Uggah exhorted.