By Samantha Tan
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 (Bernama) – Creating positive public opinion and changing people's mindset on palm oil are appropriate approaches in dealing with the negative perception cast upon the commodity in Europe, says Croatia’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Kreso Glavac.
“I have suggested to officials from the previous (Malaysian) government, you have to put some effort if you have problem with palm oil. You have to invest in advertisement and explain to the people in Europe (as to) why palm oil is good or not good,” he told Bernama in an interview at his office here recently.
Glavac said prejudice in business was something difficult to change, therefore it was crucial to invest in advertisemens and explain to the people on the benefits of palm oil rather than being angry or protest against the European Union (EU).
“Some business partners or competition could put some wrong or fake news and your products will disappear. I said to Malaysian colleagues, please invest in advertisement,” he added.
Last year, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rainforests, aimed at phasing out the use of palm oil in biofuels by 2021. In June this year, EU lawmakers deferred the palm oil biodiesel ban to 2030.
The 28-member state EU argued that oil palm cultivation led to deforestation as well as climate change, but Malaysia and other exporting countries view the opposition to palm oil as more economics-related rather than due to the alleged environmental impact.
The anti-palm oil campaign hurled against Malaysian palm oil was first mounted by American soybean farmers in 1986 as they were facing a bleak future as palm oil, the closest substitute to soybean oil, was fast dominating the American edible oil market.
As the world’s second largest producer after Indonesia, Malaysia’s palm oil exports amounted to 23.97 million tonnes last year, worth RM74.74 billion, versus 23.29 tonnes in 2016 valued at RM64.59 billion, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).
Last year, China bought 1.92 million tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia, behind India which imported 2.03 million tonnes and the EU at 1.99 million tonnes.
Glavac also suggested the MPOB open its office in the Croatian capital of Zagreb as the country, which is a member of the EU was one of the biggest consumer of palm oil in Europe.
In addressing the palm oil issue, he said MPOB’s strategy and policy should seek friends in Europe, and then change the public opinion because the end-users were the public.
“You have to invest, this issue is not something which you just fight with European countries and say, you (the EU) banned palm oil. It is a completely wrong approach,” he pointed out.
According to Malaysia’s Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok Suh Sim, soya bean producing companies in the EU spent a whopping US$600 million last year, to launch the anti-palm oil campaign but Malaysia only spent a meagre RM2 million “to tell the truth about palm oil.”
Glavac hoped the new Malaysian Government would change the traditional prejudice over Croatia, a small country with about 4.3 million people, and recognise the country which was strategically located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, as a business hub.
“It is a good chance for Malaysia (to use Croatia) as a kind of hub because we are not expensive. If from Croatia, is much easier and well-connected with all Central European and European countries,” he noted.
Edited by Gerald Raja