KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Amid the continued allegations premised on the sustainability of the palm oil industry arising mostly from nationalistic sentiment to protect their edible oils industry, palm oil producers acknowledged that the sustainability issue cannot be ignored and they have to level up their game for the longer term.
But while most agreed to the notion, some believed that instead of addressing the issues in the west where the “noise” came from, the palm oil industry should just focus on its neighbouring market — China and India.
“About 40 per cent of the world’s edible oil market come from China and India where sustainability is perhaps not a big issue.
“We are still not as strong as the western world and therefore I believe that these countries (China and India) should be properly taken care of...to promote this wonder oil,” Solvent Extractors’ Association of India president Atul Chaturvedi said on the second day of the virtual Malaysian Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar 2021 (POTS Digital 2021) organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).
He was one of the speakers at the four-day event which began on January 5, themed: “Malaysian Palm Oil — Forging Ahead in the New Norm.”
Chaturvedi urged Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s top two palm oil producers, to educate India about the goodness of palm oil.
Another speaker, Vimal Shah, chairman of Bidco Group, said besides looking east (China and India), the industry should also look at the African continent.
“We need to have partnerships and collaborations on a large scale and to look at the longer term. The oil palm originally came from Africa. It was taken to Malaysia where it was planted commercially, but it needs to be brought back to Africa,” he said.
In addition, he said collaborations can give value added to the people especially in terms of employment.
“Among the palm oil export destinations in 2021 are Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa, Angola, and Namibia,” he said.
PPB Oil Palms Bhd executive director Jeremy Goon said the palm oil industry has done a lot in addressing the sustainability issue.
“In my opinion, we have addressed all the issues and have more certification schemes in place and mechanisms than any other agricommodity. We need to continue this transparency, this certification, journey towards sustainability and not let our guard down.
“We have already shown that we have a competitive oilseed when it comes to yield per hectare. That’s already an advantage that the industry has,” he said.
On the biodiesel mandate agenda promised by Indonesia and Malaysia, LMC International chairman Dr James Fry said he doubted the implementation can be carried out this year, given the higher crude palm oil price.
IOI Corp Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Lee Yeow Chor is optimistic about the palm oil industry this year.
“Even though we have been under attack by various quarters, all these are noises. It still comes back to the fundamental of supply and demand and we can see that demand is steady. Unfortunately, supply is constricted by various factors — lack of foreign workers and La Nina,” he said. — Bernama