‘Crop Apartheid’: Malaysia lashes out after EU votes to ban palm oil biofuels
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‘Crop Apartheid’: Malaysia lashes out after EU votes to ban palm oil biofuels

MALAYSIA’S government has lashed out at the EU Parliament on Thursday following a vote to ban palm oil biofuels from its renewable energy strategy.

In a press release, Malaysia’s Plantation Minister Mah Siew Keong said the move was a “highly unjustified blockade against Malaysian farmers, families and communities.”

“This is a clear case of discrimination against palm oil producing countries. The EU is practising a form of Crop Apartheid,” he said.

Palm oil is one of Malaysia’s biggest exports, making up five percent of total exports. The EU is the second largest export market.

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In 2017, Malaysia exported approximately 2 million tonnes of palm oil to the EU, of which about 600,000 tonnes are used as feedstock for biodiesel. Additionally, another 215,000 tonnes of palm-based biofuel are directly exported to countries of the EU, Mah told reporters on the sidelines of the Palm Oil Economic Review and Outlook Seminar 2018, as reported by The Edge.


Deforested tropical rain forest in Borneo to be used for an oil palm plantation. Photo taken near Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia, in May 2015. Source: Rich Carey/Shutterstock

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday for the resolution to phase out palm-based biofuels from the EU energy mix after 2020. The final decision will be made in a tripartite meeting along with the Council of the EU and the European Commission.

The decision prompted protests in the Malaysian capital. Chants of “Stop EU” were shouted by protesters outside the central Felda Tower as thousands of settlers staged a noisy protest against the ban palm oil, according to the Star.

SEE ALSO: Southeast Asia’s palm oil problem needs cross-border solutions

“EU accuses us of deforestation but we never cut the forest. We developed the land that has been used by our ancestors for farming over the years,” said Jonek, 66, who flew in from Sarawak for the protest.

Having been a palm oil smallholder for more than 20 years, Jonek said they depended on palm oil products for their livelihood.

“We will suffer without palm oil products. The revenue is used to give education to our children and build our houses,” he said.

Mah said that actions were being taken both by Malaysian ambassadors in the EU and the Plantations Ministry to inform the energy ministers of the “correct fact” regarding the sustainability of Malaysian palm oil. The ministry has formally written to the parliament and petitions are being prepared to present to European governments.

“This is a black day for free trade, because [the EU] discriminating palm oil is a very unfair trade practice,” Mah said. “To me, it is not about the environment, it is trade protectionism.”

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