KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — An outright ban on the palm oil imports does not just penalise and hurt the entity involved, but in reality, it will affect the livelihood of the smallholders and settlers, says the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC).

Reacting to the United States (US) palm oil imports ban on a plantation company recently, MPOCC chief executive officer Chew Jit Seng said it is a cultural norm in the rural Asian and Malaysian communities, for children to accompany their parents or guardians at work in the agricultural sector during off-school hours for social safety reasons, especially if both parents work at the same time and place.

“In this circumstance, they may wish to help their parents to pick some loose fruits, and this shall not be misconstrued as forced or child labour which is not allowed under the Employment Act 1955 and further stipulated in Act 670,” he said in a statement today.

Chew expressed concern that the US ban would affect the livelihood of the smallholders and settlers who worked hard on the small piece of land allocated to them to put food on the table and to send their children to school.

In fact, he said a more holistic solution would be for the concerned stakeholders to engage with the industry players and regulatory agencies to follow through on the issues raised, and to seek realistic and sustainable solutions.

“The MPOCC will continue to monitor the development of these allegations while contributing proactively towards strategic solutions to solve the labour issues in the palm oil industry.

“This is part of the continual efforts to rebuild the reputation of the palm oil sector,” he said, adding that under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme, which is mandatory across the board for the industry, there are clear and strong requirements on workers’ rights, health and safety, and that no forms of forced or trafficked labour are used.

“In addition, all MSPO certificate holders must abide by Malaysian laws and regulations, which include the Immigration Act 670 and Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act (2007) (ATIPSOM),” he said.

According to reports, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has blocked entry of palm oil products of a local plantation company over forced labour allegations after a year-long investigation that alleges abuse, deception, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, and the retention of workers’ identity documents. — Bernama