Palm Oil Bans Meet Resistance in Southeast Asia

Sri Lanka has decided to completely remove its palm plantations. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the E.U. are scaling back on imports over environmental and labor concerns.
A palm oil plantation in Malaysia.
Apr. 13, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Several coun­tries have taken mea­sures against the pro­duc­tion and use of palm oil, a move that has put pres­sure on the main Southeast-Asian pro­duc­ers.

In Sri Lanka, a major source and importer of palm oil, the gov­ern­ment has urged pro­duc­ers to uproot their palm tree plan­ta­tions, and imports have been banned since early April, Reuters reported.

Consumer minds are now so neg­a­tive that it would be a dif­fi­cult bat­tle to win over their hearts and wal­lets.- Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan President

The cul­ti­va­tion of palm trees has been expand­ing in recent years, with plan­ta­tions cov­er­ing approx­i­mately 11,000 hectares. Environmentalists have warned that the pro­duc­tion of palm oil causes defor­esta­tion and harms ecosys­tems.

Those com­pa­nies and enti­ties which have done such (palm oil) cul­ti­va­tions shall be required to remove them in a phased man­ner with 10 per­cent uproot­ing at a time and replac­ing it with the cul­ti­va­tion of rub­ber or envi­ron­men­tal friendly crops each year,” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a state­ment, adding that he planned to make the coun­try free from oil palm plan­ta­tions and palm oil con­sump­tion.”

See Also: Malaysia Criticizes WHO Advisory Against Consuming Palm Oil During Pandemic

A few months ago, the United States halted palm oil imports from two of the world’s largest pro­duc­ing com­pa­nies based in Malaysia over con­cerns of illicit labor prac­tices in the pro­duc­tion process.

In another blow to the palm oil indus­try, in 2019, the European Union pledged to phase out the use of palm oil in bio­fu­els by 2030 over wor­ries that the extended cul­ti­va­tion of palm trees is unsus­tain­able and leads to defor­esta­tion.

France, how­ever, has moved faster in remov­ing palm oil as a bio­fuel ingre­di­ent from November 2020. Other E.U. mem­ber states, includ­ing Germany and Lithuania, are also on the same track of end­ing the use of palm oil in bio­fu­els ahead of sched­ule.

Malaysia, the sec­ond-largest pro­ducer of palm oil in the world after Indonesia, has opposed the E.U. ban by fil­ing an objec­tion with the World Trade Organization.

Indonesia and Malaysia are also plan­ning a Europe cam­paign to assuage exist­ing con­cerns about the con­se­quences of palm oil pro­duc­tion. While there are larger palm oil buy­ers than Europe, such as India and China, the con­ti­nent is still con­sid­ered a cru­cial mar­ket.

We’re no longer talk­ing about E.U. reg­u­la­tions against palm oil. We’re talk­ing about a whole gen­er­a­tion of cit­i­zens who believe palm oil is really bad,” Long Tian Ching, the deputy pres­i­dent of the Malaysian Biodiesel Association, said. Consumer minds are now so neg­a­tive that it would be a dif­fi­cult bat­tle to win over their hearts and wal­lets.”





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