KARACHI: Stakeholders from around the world on Thursday suggested forming an ‘Asian Palm Oil Alliance’ to protect producers and consumers from an ongoing global smear campaign against this edible oil.
A proposal to this effect was endorsed by speakers from India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and European countries in a virtual seminar titled “Sustainability challenges in palm oil Sector in South Asia”.
The discussion was attended by more than 100 participants from around the globe. Ironically, no speaker from Pakistan, which is a major stakeholder and consumer of palm oil in South Asia, participated in the event.
Dr Shatadru Chattopadhayay, representing India, said palm oil was all about production and consumption in South Asia and South East Asia, which faced three major challenges that included palm free products, increasing discourse on health issues related to palm oil and palm oil production and its impacts over ecology.
Chattopadhayay suggested establishing an ‘Asian Palm Oil Alliance’ like European Palm Oil Alliance, consisting palm oil consuming and producing countries.
He said Europe was the focus of the producing countries, while they put little effort to promote it in Asia.
Edi Suhardi of Goodhope Asia Holdings said palm oil price was lower than other edible oils. “It could perform as best in the edible oils, as it requires less land and is lower in prices. It was not against the biodiversity,” Suhardi said.
Prof Asoka Nugawela, Wayamba University, Sri Lanka, said that oil palm cultivation was banned in Sri Lanka due to several misconceptions and negative allegations.
After such allegations, he said, the government continued the ban on oil palm cultivation. Dr Ruslan Abdullah, representing Malaysian Palm Oil Council, said they cultivated oil palm trees at 6.1 million hectares while the government planned to keep it around 6.5 million hectares, which meant zero growth and de-plantation of other plants.
“We have 87.75 percent certified palm oil fields,” he said.
He said that European Union called palm oil non sustainable oil.
“They have started ban on import of palm oil. They will totally ban palm oil import by 2030. They have put several taxes one after the other,” Abdullah said adding, “Malaysian government is taking sustainability measures in oil palm cultivation”.
Prof Pietro Paganini, John Cabot University Rome, said there were and would be problems with the palm oil industry at small- and large-scale, as anti-palm oil campaign had grown in Europe.
Paganini suggested the legislators should look at the interest of producers, farmers, and consumers as well.
Food producers have started replacing palm oil because of larger market aspect. Because of the competition, they spread negative information saying palm oil was not healthy, he said.
“We cannot leave palm oil. If we leave it, we need to produce other crops, but we do not have other land. Palm oil is the most sustainable. There should be legislation to make palm oil supply chain sustainable as well as for other crops and commodities,” Paganini added.
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