KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the Sarawak government will no longer approve the opening of new oil palm plantations, as part of efforts to convince the European Union (EU) that the state is serious in conserving its environment.
Speaking at Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s 16th anniversary dinner here Sunday, he said was encouraged by the outcome of a recent meeting with several EU ambassadors, who said that if the state was to keep up with its conservation efforts, the EU might consider buying the country’s palm oil products again.
“As you know, our oil palm reputation is not that good in the EU. I met ambassadors from the EU, I told them about our conservation efforts, and they said if we have that management they will (consider to) buy our palm oil, provided that we can prove that we are also conserving our environment.
“Because of that, I will not approve anymore opening of new oil palm plantations. We only do agropark for food production. At the same time, we will replant our degraded forest,” he said.
He expressed confidence that if current conservation efforts are maintained, the state will in the next 10 to 20 years “revert to what Sarawak once was, with lots of trees”.
“But there must be a political will, and I hope you will support me to do it,” he said.
The EU Parliament in June this year passed the Delegated Act to effectively ban palm oil in biofuel by 2030, over concerns that cultivation of the crop has led to deforestation and climate change in producer countries.
The Malaysian government has refuted the claim, calling it misleading and economically detrimental to the industry, especially to the some 650,000 smallholders in the country.
Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok had labelled the decision as “politics of protectionism”, while the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries said the ban was meant to protect the EU’s homegrown vegetable oils such as rapeseed and soybean.