Teresa Kok out to change EU’s palm oil sentiment by mid-term

Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok speaks during a press conference, April 25, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok speaks during a press conference, April 25, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Teresa Kok has admitted that the palm oil war with the European Union (EU) is her toughest challenge yet since being appointed Primary Industries Minister, overseeing Malaysia’s commodities.

No newbie to criticism, the seasoned politician is rolling up her sleeves to combat the issue so as to proof why Malaysia’s palm oil production is not as bad as claimed.

However, Kok said that more needs to be done, and this can only be made possible with support from Malaysians.

“In this one year, among the main challenges I faced is managing the anti-palm oil campaign.

“We believe that our efforts to reject this anti-palm oil campaign will only work if Malaysians trust and appreciate Malaysian palm oil,” Kok told a special interview to commemorate Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first year in Putrajaya, after defeating Barisan Nasional (BN) on May 9 last year.

“By mid term, it will be 2021. So by 2021, the European Union (EU) has to review the delegated regulation,” she added.

Kok said that despite being trolled online owing to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remark urging Malaysians to drink one spoon of palm oil daily for their health, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I understand people make fun. Especially about the part advising them to drink one spoon of palm oil daily.

“However, because of the statement of the prime minister, it gave me an opportunity to introduce the red palm oil, which is full of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. All these while, this was also not known to many, especially to even Malaysians.

“That’s why when I was teased by social media users, with some even posing, pretending to drink their cooking oil and many other antics which we saw on Facebook, I accepted it all well, because indirectly, they actually helped by drawing more interest from the public towards the ‘Love My Palm Oil’ campaign,” she said.

Kok also hopes that Malaysian palm oil can penetrate more global markets, pointing to Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan as targets.

“I see that we have a lot of potential to go into new markets, but when we want to penetrate into the market, when we want to brand our palm oil better than others, we must make sure the industry should follow all the rules and regulations,” she added.

Last December, France’s National Assembly voted to end tax incentives for palm oil biodiesel by 2020, followed later that month by Norway’s parliament’s plan to ban biofuels with palm oil also by 2020.

In 2017, the EU Parliament had banned the use of palm oil in all European biofuels by 2020, citing environmental concerns.

Malaysia had strongly criticised the move, calling the EU’s decision unfair.

Last month, Dr Mahathir said that Putrajaya may stop buying goods from EU member states if the bloc proceeds with its plan to ban Malaysian-made palm oil products.

The prime minister said PH leaders had a consensus that the federal government must be more aggressive to protect the country’s oil palm industry.

The call for retaliation would take place if the EU proceeds to implement the Delegated Act to phase out and ban palm biodiesel.

The proposed EU Delegated Act — slated to be tabled before the European Parliament in April 2019 — supplements the EU Renewable Energy Directive II to restrict and ban palm oil biofuel altogether by 2030.

In January, Dr Mahathir had written a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron and said that Malaysia would look into laws to restrict imports of French products if it did not withdraw plans to ban palm biodiesel.

How would she rate her performance?

During the interview, Kok said she left it to the industry players and the people to rate her performance as Cabinet minister.

“Actually I don’t want to rate myself because I think the rakyat should rate us.

“It’s just that you don’t give yourself examination and give yourself 100 per cent. Actually it should be others.

“I think that the industry players should rate. I think that those who are watching what this minister is doing, that should give the mark,” she added.

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