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KOTA KINABALU, May 24 (Bernama) -- Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor had asked the European Union (EU) ambassador to Malaysia, Michalis Rokas to correct misconceptions about the country’s palm oil industry.
Hajiji said Rokas had personally seen for himself the sustainable and best practice carried out by Sabah’s oil palm sector, and the state had been promoting sustainable practice in oil palm cultivation, contrary to what the EU anti-palm oil lobbies have been spreading negatively and widely.
“Sabah’s total trade with the EU was about RM4.2 billion which include RM3.3 billion in export and RM800 million in imports. EU is an important trading partner, we want to see more investments and increased trade with the EU,” he said in a statement after meeting Rokas with his delegation at Sri Gaya here today.
Hajiji said Rokas had also visited Sawit Kinabalu’s oil palm plantation among others where he saw the good work done on environmental conservation by the Sabah government.
The chief minister said Sabah has done much to meet the national commitment of maintaining 50 per cent under forest cover and ensuring 52 per cent of the state’s forest as permanent forest reserves, parks and wildlife conservation areas.
During the meeting, the chief minister also welcomed the ambassador’s commitment to highlighting Sabah’s development priority in agriculture, industrial and tourism as well as the energy sector to the EU.
In the same statement, Rokas also agreed that there has always been a misconception about palm oil among the EU countries and that it needed to be corrected.
He said Malaysia is an important country to EU which is about 40 per cent of EU trade is in Malaysia and there is much to explore in Sabah and looking forward to enhancing partnership in view of the wealth of potential partnerships in trade and conservation efforts.
“I have seen it myself and it (conservation efforts) is very commendable. I was thrilled to see for myself an orang utan and its baby although only from afar,” he said, adding that a survey from the air also showed many orang utans nest atop the trees indicating all is well for the wildlife.
“But the EU doesn’t know about this yet. We need to go back and give the true impression of the situation in Sabah. I will convey this to Brussels (EU headquarters) to correct and enhance the view on the palm oil industry in Malaysia. Your forest is an asset, a world heritage and that is why we care about it,” he said.
Rokas also offered assistance on biodiversity conservation with EU funding to the state government as well as improving collaboration between the EU and Sabah through technical support and expertise.
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