KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin today expressed her ministry’s commitment to fight Western anti-palm oil sentiments, saying that Malaysia cannot just sit idly by.

In a statement today, Zuraida explained that Malaysia, along with neighbouring Indonesia, have been painted in a negative light over two decades by Western and developed countries, which in the long run, can affect the competitiveness of its palm oil exports.

“The smear campaign, which created negative perceptions towards palm oil — if not systematically and strategically put to rest — can affect the competitiveness of Malaysian palm oil exports in the long haul.

“As palm oil and its related products have been a major revenue contributor to the country’s economy as well as having played a significant role in reducing rural poverty (by providing employment) and improving infrastructure, Malaysia has resorted to counter such malicious/baseless claims via a ‘soft consultancy' approach,” she said.

Zuraida said that her ministry has been closely monitoring latest developments from the European Union (EU) after Malaysia initiated legal action in January 2021 against it and two of its members — France and Lithuania — via the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Mechanism.

She added that Malaysia would also act as a third party in a separate WTO case lodged by Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, as a sign of solidarity and support.

“The current practice of ‘no palm oil ’or ‘palm oil-free labelling' in France and Belgium can be traced back to 2008 when the French retail chain Carrefour started to substitute palm oil in potato chips with sunflower oil.

“Singling out palm oil with palm oil-free marketing and labelling campaigns will convince consumers that palm oil is terrible whether for nutritional or environmental reasons or both,” she said.

Explaining the overall cost and time of the ensuing legal process — given the massive preparation work, submission of documents for argument, and hours of research and meetings — she said that Malaysia has been left with no choice but to stand up to its “bullies”.

“In this regard, MPIC will continue to closely monitor latest developments from a legislation standpoint by the EU, which can potentially tarnish the reputation of palm oil, hence adversely affecting the viability of the palm oil and palm oil-related industry in Malaysia.

“I call upon all Malaysians to join MPIC and rise up to defend our palm oil in the eyes of the world,” she said.