By Nurul Hanis Izmir
KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 (Bernama) – Palm oil is one commodity that has "truly grown" inside all Malaysians, therefore the task to defend this “tree of life” against various discriminatory acts should not rest solely on the government's shoulders but on all its 30 million citizens.
And 2019 perhaps is the right time to demonstrate our love towards the “tree of life” by supporting the various government’s initiative for palm oil, which has enriched the country, powered its economy and elevated millions of people out of poverty.
One of the initiatives is the Ministry of Primary Industries' “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign to be launched on March 24 at Sime Darby Plantation, Carey Island, Selangor.
The one-year campaign aimed to instil a sense of national pride and a greater appreciation for Malaysian palm oil, focusing on its socio-economic importance, health, nutrition and food and non-food applications.
A three minutes video clip has also been produced to support the campaign with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad addressing the significance of the crop to the country and the challenges faced by it.
In the earlier part of the video, Dr Mahathir explained how oil palm tree was brought into the country, back then known as Malaya, as a decorative tree but people discovered later that it produced a lot of fruits and the fruits produced a lot of oil -- palm oil.
Since then, the oil palm tree has been in Malaysia for 102 years now.
“And for a long long time now people have been consuming Malaysian palm oil and I do consume palm oil as the preferred oil when my cook prepare food for me,” said the prime minister.
He pointed out on how palm oil was accused of having a deleterious effect on consumers who consumed it which was refuted by the palm oil industry which has submitted the oil for examination in several laboratories in the US and found no evidence of any bad effect from the consumption of palm oil.
“Now, it has been accused of causing a lot of forests to be cleared in order to plant the oil palms but in Malaysia, we have been very careful about preserving our forest. Fifty per cent of the surface is covered by forest and of course, palm tree themselves are a tree that absorbed carbon dioxide”.
Towards the end of the three minutes video clip, Dr Mahathir emphasised on how competitors are trying to manipulate the consumers into believing that palm oil is harmful.
“I'll be very happy to support this campaign and I think it is a good campaign, so Malaysian, in particular, must support this campaign. It is good for them and it is good for the economy,” he added.
If the 94 years old prime minister, who is a doctor and the world's oldest leader could be so steadfast in supporting the vital industry, perhaps there is no reason for Malaysians not to join and support the campaign too.
How you may ask?
Well, the easiest way for the general public to show their support to the campaign is by disseminating all the facts and benefits of the product to other people especially the foreigners.
Social media could be just the right platform to start with.
Malaysians could also show their support by buying palm oil-based products.
For big firms, perhaps they could come up with a campaign to combat the 90-seconds animation by the Ireland Greenpeace “Rang-tan”.
Narrated by famous actress Emma Thompson (Mary Poppins), the campaign tells the story of a homeless orangutan which had her habitat destroyed due to the deforestation and hid in a little girl’s bedroom.
Although the campaign was meant for the Indonesian plantations, perhaps it is one of an example to fight the discrimination for the oil.
As part of the campaign, the ministry has also partnered with the Tourism Ministry, whereby tourist guides are tasked to spread positive information on oil palm plantation and its related products.
Tour packages to oil palm plantations would also be offered.
“Our tourist guides will have special tasks, whereby they will become the spokesperson for our palm oil, to educate the tourists, especially foreigners.
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd’s Carey Island is only less than a two-hour drive from the KL city and it is one of the participating planters in the campaign.
Its executive deputy chairman and managing director Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh said the company welcomes tourists from all over the world to its estates to see how the trees are grown, the processes involved before the products hit the market
This seems to be the perfect place for tourists especially those originated from the European Union to see for themselves the sustainability of the industry.
“We want to help increase the awareness among tourists and at the same time educate them about this crop so that they know the goodness of palm oil and maybe they could disseminate the right info to others,” he told Bernama recently.
Mohd Bakke also said that the company had been hosting many events at Carey Island for many groups, not just locally but internationally.
Sime Darby Plantations has a total planted area of 602,454 hectares, spanning across Malaysia, Indonesia, PNG & Solomon Islands and Liberia.
Other planters involved in the campaign are Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd in Perak as well as Genting Plantations Bhd in the Borneo region.
Palm oil repackers have also been requested by the government to include two logos on their packaging as part of the campaign to counter efforts to boycott palm oil products in Europe.
They would be using a “Sayangi Sawitku” or “Love MY Palm Oil” logo and the “Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil” (MSPO) logo.
Unlike in food and home and personal care products, where palm’s chemical makeup makes it the perfect alternative when it comes to biofuel, palm, soybean, rapeseed and sunflower oils all perform equally well.
But palm has one big advantage over these rival oils: price.
Most importantly, it gives the highest yield per acre of any oilseed crop – almost five times as much oil per acre as rapeseed, almost six times as much as sunflower and more than eight times as much as soybeans.
Boycotts of palm oil would only lead to its replacement by other crops which need far more farmland and likely to cause more deforestation.
The cost of production is far less than any compared [comparable] vegetable or animal fat,” said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram.