Palm oil and food security issues — Kuo Yong Kooi

JANUARY 18 — It is good practice of an administrator when taking over the management of the country's ministerial position to review the policies of the previous administration and change it so that it is in line with your world view.

The current debacle on the issue of European Union planned sanction of palm oil product imports in the near future is one good reminder for us to take stock and see if we should continue along the path of the old Barisan Nasional's policy of the massive palm oil mono-crop plantations.

There are arguments for and against palm oil plantations and its products. The issue is where are we heading now given the major topic of concern for the world at the moment are environmental issues like climate change, food security, over-use of pesticides, virgin forest clearance for palm oil plantations.

If Pakatan Harapan administration subscribes to the global conventions to help tackle the environmental issues of our time, then the best course of action is to stop the current madness of continue mono-cropping of palm oil.

Global climate change is happening, extreme weather conditions affect and threatens global food security production. With the current decision of the European Union planned sanction, it is high time that we change the policy now. Looking at slowly converting the current palm oil crop to mix cropping of fruit trees and food production to deal with food security issues.

Another reason why we need to move away from mono-cropping of palm oil is to deal with the potential impact of unemployment on the people when the full onslaught of the twenty-first century development of the fourth industrial revolution.

In this era, artificial intelligence and robotics will replace human labor in the name of efficiency. Uber and taxi drivers will be replaced by driverless Uber. Factories workers will be replaced by more efficient robots. If we do not prepare to face these issue now, when the full impact is at hand, we will be in deep trouble as we are a nation obsessed with racial and religious issues, one of the easiest spark of social chaos.

There are many smallholders of palm oil plantations who would like to increase their income. The subsidies for replantation should include looking at encouraging them to try mixed cropping of fruit trees and food production. There will be a major impact on issues of large scale unemployment in the advent of the full-scale development in the fourth industrial revolution, if we prepare now, we are then poised to tackle the issue with ease when the time comes.

Malaysia is blessed with a tropical climate that can produce abundant food and fruits. Utilising land to produce food and fruits can be a better way to overcome global backlash on mono-cropping of palm oil.

All we need is a bit of hard work, imagination awareness of the major issues that face humanity now.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.