BRUSSELS-- The European Palm Oil Conference 2017 (EPOC) will focus on the European debate on the sustainability of palm oil used in food and increasing awareness on protecting the environment, biodiversity and rainforests.

The conference is taking place at the height of the on-going deliberation on linking palm oil to deforestation and calls for tougher environment standards, which have drawn serious concern from top officials in palm oil producing countries.

This is at a very critical stage and leadership at the highest (level) has been initiated amid the economic and social importance of the crop (to Malaysia), said Dr Kalyana Sundram, Malaysian Palm Oil Council Chief Executive Officer in an interview with Bernama ahead of the conference here tomorrow.

During the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo met with EU President Donald Tusk and discussed the unprecedented challenges that the palm oil industry was currently facing throughout Europe.

The issue was also the focus of both leaders during the '12th Malaysia-Indonesia Annual Leaders Consultation', which is currently taking place in Kuching, Sarawak.

Malaysia and Indonesia account for 85 per cent of global palm oil production.

EPOC is jointly organised by the European Palm Oil Alliance and the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group (ESPOAG).

Aimed at creating an opportunity to strengthen the collaboration between industries, politicians, government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it would serve as a platform, among others, to showcase what the industry has done in order to reach 100 per cent sustainable palm oil in Europe.

It would also present data on the production and uptake of sustainable palm oil, address policy developments at the EU level and showcase the different certification schemes and multi-stakeholder projects in producing countries to promote sustainable palm oil production.

In Malaysia, the livelihood of more than 650,000 independent smallholders are dependent on oil palm cultivation.

Land owned by these smallholders form more than 40 per cent of the land planted with oil palm.

The bottom line is for producing countries such as Malaysia to continuously demonstrate its commitment towards sustainability, Dr Kalyana said.

I think the credibility of us not taking more forest land for oil palm cultivation is very high. That is why we are explaining these to the European commission, he said.

And, according to him:They listen.

They are also tracking the work of related Malaysian palm oil agencies. They know what we are saying is backed by some very solid scientific research (and) they want to see us implement those plans and technology, he explained.

Dr Kalyana also believed with the leaders stepping in, it would work out well.

Because, now we have the ability (to pressure). The last time it was business-to-business discussions, but now there is a government interest, bilateral trade and negotiations are involved. All elements are being tested,he said

Besides, Najib and the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Mah Siew Keong, as part of Malaysia's effort in tackling the issue, convened a special dialogue with 18 European ambassadors on Nov 20, 2017.

The closed-door meeting primarily focused on matters regarding EU's Parliamentary Resolution to link palm oil with deforestation.

For people like me, it is an inspiration to get direction from the Prime Minister and minister. We know we have to work much harder to achieve this, he added.


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