Sunday, November 17

Indigenous oil palm farmers appeal to French govt to visit Sarawak

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Rita Insol

KUCHING: Indigenous oil palm smallholders in Sarawak are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel following the positive response shown by the French government to Malaysia’s appeal for a better understanding of the nation’s palm oil industry, according to Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA) vice-president Rita Insol.

Rita said that majority of the farmers are currently struggling, although the price of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) has increased from the rock bottom price of RM280 per tonne which was recorded end of last year to between RM320 and RM340 per tonne now.

“We are hanging by our teeth. If the price climbs to RM400 per tonne, then at least we can breathe easier,” she told The Borneo Post.

Rita was asked to comment on Malaysia and France plan to hold joint dialogues and strengthen engagements to promote better understanding of the palm oil industry.

Primary Industries Minister, Teresa Kok revealed this following a courtesy call on her from French Ambassador to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche where they discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation and dialogues on palm oil, as well as encouraging engagements between lawmakers from both countries.

Rita took an opportunity to invite the French ambassador to come in visit Sarawak to get better understanding of the scenario rather than listening to a third party.

“It’s a positive move. It shows France is willing to listen to our side of the story. We welcome the French Embassy’s visit to our farms and rural communities who depend on oil palm for a decent livelihood,” she added.

Rita said they will make an official invitation to the French Ambassador via a courtesy call soon.

“It was proposed, yes. We are waiting for the executive council meeting next month to decide on the courtesy call,” she added.

Rita was also happy to hear of French Environment Ambassador Wehrling Yann’s plan to visit Malaysia to get a first-hand exposure on Malaysia’s sustainable palm oil practices and conservation efforts.

She said if the French government reverses its decision on palm oil ban, then the negative trend faced by the commodity would be significantly improved.

“It would assure a steady market for palm oil and with increased demand, it is hoped that the price will inch up further,” she said.