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Thursday, 08 Feb, 2018

'EU should reforest before pointing fingers'

Chief Executive Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Dr Kalyana Sundram.

KUALA LUMPUR: Parliamentarians from 28 European Union (EU) member states have been urged to reforest (Europe) before imposing a legislation on the Malaysian palm oil industry and accusing it of deforestation.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram said the proposed ban would adversely affect the net income of Malaysian oil palm smallholders.

“The EU Parliament’s ‘Resolution on Deforestation and Palm Oil’ in April last year and its follow up vote in mid-January to exclude the inclusion of palm biodiesel in the EU renewable energy mandate from 2021 onwards, pose challenges for the palm oil producing nations, especially when the livelihood of smallholders will be adversely affected.”

The smallholders expressed their frustration by holding a rally in Kuala Lumpur, but their pleas for help had fallen on deaf ears. The Malaysian government has reacted strongly through a series of statements and actions from Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

Kalyana said the EU parliamentarians had assumed, based on erroneous facts and figures and supported by their Green movements, that the palm oil cultivation must be halted over fears the world’s rainforests would be lost forever due to deforestation.

“Forests are important and they are a great selling point for the Greens in Europe. Most of the EU member states have a poor record of forest cover in their respective countries.

“Did you know that average forest cover in the EU is 33.7 per cent of its total land acreage? This is a far cry from the very respectable figure of 55 per cent forest cover that Malaysia lays claims to and is verified by FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) and other forest authorities.”

Kalyana also said statistics showed that 64.2 million ha of forests in EU were devoted permanently as pasturelands, and in any year an additional 12 million ha can be added as temporary pastureland to support cattle and dairy industries.

“Animal husbandry, as practised in EU, has very high pollution and greenhouse gas emissions potentials, mostly methane emitted by farm animals,  which is 20 times more polluting than carbon dioxide. This, possibly impacts climate change in more ways than the entire 5.8 million ha under oil palm cultivation in Malaysia.

“EU’s vote to ban palm oil has conveniently not accounted for the animal fat by-products from these 76 million ha pastureland, that may also find applications in its renewable energy mandate in the form of tallow and lard.

“Should the EU not take into consideration this (factor), even while conveniently forgetting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with 2.03 million metric tonnes (MT) of butter production annually?”

Kalyana said the EU devoted an additional 11 million ha of its land towards the cultivation of oil bearing rapeseed, sunflower and soybean crops.

Of these, he said, rapeseed oil was a major component (more than 60 per cent) of the EU renewable energy and biodiesel mix. The problem with rapeseed cultivation was that it was about five times less efficient in its oil output compared with Malaysian perineal oil palms.

“Should the palm oil ban be realised, then EU must find additional rapeseed oil sources within Europe. This could mean devoting up to an additional five million ha for oilseed cultivation. Agriculture and environmental experts are frowning upon this since European oilseed cultivation has been recorded to adversely impact their wetlands and waterways.

“We do not hear of these challenges, do we? As world citizens, let us start demanding that the EU reforest Europe and reduce its acreage of pasturelands. We should propose (that they) use Malaysian forest cover commitment of 50 per cent (which was announced) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as a benchmark. A mere five million ha of reforestation in Europe will get them to about 40 per cent forest cover, which is still below the Malaysian commitment.”

Kalyana said Malaysia, as a developing country, could do with more funding to enhance its forest management and better protect its wildlife.

“There is the well-tested concept of ‘biobanking’, where you compensate by conserving equivalent high conservation land masses for areas that have been exploited. Since the EU had exploited nearly 76 million ha of pastureland and 11 million ha under its oilseeds cultivation, with an additional potential expansion of five million ha to fit its Renewable Energy Directive II, it is not a bad idea to consider biobanking in Malaysia.

“In consideration of this, our expansion of our oil palm cultivated acreage, which has reached its near maximum, can be capped. Instead of expanding the total cultivated area, we can commit towards increasing yields per hectare, such as increasing yields from the current averages of 3.8MT to 6.0MT per hectare.”

Kalyana urged those who support the EU reforestation and compensation through biobanking in the developing nations plans, to send their message via #EU Reforest #Biobank.

Source : New Straits Times

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