'We will react and respond to any discriminatory measures against Malaysian palm oil,' warns minister

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

With a recent European resolution calling for tariffs and trade barriers against any palm oil linked to deforestation, Malaysia's minister for plantations and commodities warns: "We will react and respond accordingly to any discriminatory measures against Malaysian palm oil."

Last week the Malaysian minister for plantations and commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, travelled to Strasbourg to discuss the resolution, which wants to see tough measures to halt the deforestation of rainforests linked to palm oil production, and the possible consequences should it go through with MEPs and Commissioners.

The resolution calls on the Commission​ to put an end to the use of palm oil in biofuels and to create a single mandatory certification scheme that all palm oil entering Europe must adhere to.

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Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong © MPIC

The report also calls for punitive measures, such as tariffs and other trade barriers, on unsustainable oil entering the EU. Given that Malaysia exported over two billion euros worth of palm oil to Europe last year, it has indicated such measures would be retaliated.

"Malaysia and Europe have always had good relations and we are big trading partners with each other. We will take very seriously any action which is discriminatory towards Malaysian exports. Palm is an important part of our economy.

"...Millions of families will be affected by discriminatory measures so we will have to react and respond accordingly."

Malaysia, like Indonesia, has its own national sustainable certification scheme​ which it says is more inclusive than other standards, and it strongly objects to the idea of adhering to a different one.

"As a producer country we are better suited to know the [appropriate] conditions and criteria," ​he said.

"There is no point in having a certificate that only 10% of farmers can adhere to. We want 100%  and that is why we feel that our Malaysian home-grown standard, MSPO, has the correct criteria and the practicality to ensure that everyone adheres to it."

Another thorn in the side of producer countries is the rise of palm oil free labels in Europe. They see this as unfairly targeting a single ingredient.

Minister Mah Siew Keong said he felt vindicated by Ferrero’s recent victory after a Belgian court ruled Delhaize supermarket​ could not substantiate claims that its chocolate spread is healthier and better for the environment because it doesn’t contain palm oil. 

"I'm sure that with the result of the court case, the other [manufacturers] who want to do this will be more careful."

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