KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the international community's assessments and assumptions about Malaysia's palm oil as not fair and the arguments claiming that palm oil cultivation activities in the country affected its natural ecosystem as not true.
"Palm oil is the cheapest edible vegetable oil. It is also easy to cultivate, and once planted the yield can be enjoyed for up to 25 years, unlike other oils such as soybean and rapeseed.
"For that reason, palm oil being able to compete (with other oils) and likely to win. So they invented this idea that we are cutting down trees to plant (oil) palm trees and depriving animals of their habitats," said the premier during the question and answer session at the Cambridge University after delivering a talk on ‘Democracy in Malaysia and Southeast Asia’.
The session was aired live via Astro Awani’s Facebook earlier today.
Dr Mahathir who is on a three-day working visit to the United Kingdom also took a jab at Western hypocrisy in using environment narrative for its anti-palm oil campaigns.
"You talk about the environment, clearing the forests, but look at Britain for example, where is Sherwood Forest? Is it still there? Is Robin Hood still operating from there?
"Most of the forests in Europe has been cleared, so much so there are no more wild animals in Europe. But in Malaysia, we still have tigers. If you like to go into the jungle, we can send you there,” he said in jest.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that Malaysia wanted to compete with the rest of the world in a fair manner.
"We have to make some money from the resources we have. We have to utilise our resources. Our fertile soil is suitable for palm oil, therefore we produce palm oil,” he said.
Malaysian government capped the expansion of oil palm plantations at 6.5 million hectares, focusing on utilising higher yielding planting materials and increasing productivity without the need to expand into new forests or peatlands. The country also maintains its forest cover by at least 50 per cent.