Teresa Kok / Minister of Primary Industries of Malaysia
Alberto Rubio. 08/10/2018
Teresa Kok, Malaysian Minister of Primary Industries, visited last week Switzerland, Spain and Brussels, where she met the Energy Commissioner Karmenu Vella and Vicepresident Federica Mogherini, to defend palm oil as biofuel against European Parliament proposal to ban its imports by 2021. In Madrid, she atended the anual meeting of the European Palm Oil Conference.
Which impression did you get from this meeting?
I think it has been positive. In the conference, atended by the Trade Minister of Indonesia and myself, we both encouraged businesspeople of the European to go on using palm oil as biofuel. There is nothing wrong with it.
Maybe the industry can support palm oil. But the real problema now is the last European Parlaiament’s proposals to ban biofuel from palm oil? Do you think you will be able to change it?
Al the problema is based on a new policy we tried to argue with them. On the Malaysian side maybe we should do more to refute these accusations as such deforestation or damage to wildlife. So, back home we will try our very best to rectify anything that has gone wrong. But Malaysia, and you can see it, still has 50% or more forest covered and we are doing everything to discourage expansión of palm oil farms in forest areas.
How will you do it?
It’s already happening. Palm oil industry players in Malaysia are setting their farms together and we have the Sepilok Orangutan Centre, which is a big contribution to environmental causes in Malaysia.
So, whatever the Europeans acusse us, we are responding positively and rectifying anything which could be wrong. We already apply palm oil certifications both to big and small producers. We are doing our very best to educate our farmers, specially the small ones to cultivate their crops in a sustanaible way.
How can it be monitored in a safe way?
Look, in Malaysia we have a satellite to monitor our forest, as I have been mentioning in previous palm oil conferences. And I can assure we have more than 50% clean forest, more than Europe as a whole. So those who accuse us of deforestation need to be more fair to us.
I think you don’t believe the problem is just environmental.
Yes. I think we got strong oil competitors. European producers. Maybe, you have to look at the farmers.
It’s not a surprise. It happened the same with palm oil for food processed products. But, let me tell you, in Malaysia we consume palm oil every day. Everything is cooked in palm oil and, you see me, I am walking and talking to you.
Have your discussed the issue with the Spanish authorities?
On this occasion we have not met, but when the palm oil fuel debate was ongoing, just prior to trialogue debate, Malaysia made a presentation to the Spanish government and expressed its concerns about the proposed ban. Spain understood our reasons and did not support the ban in full.
Is the European Union the only region in which you found this problem? What about China or the US?
For China is not an issue and imports palm oil. Even America, which used to be very vocal against palm oil twenty years ago, has not such an intense problem as Europe. United States imports 1.4 million tons of palm oil every year.
It seems to me that the EU contradicts itself. On one hand, wish to reduce CO2 emissions and promote biofuel. On the other they try to limit imports. It doesn’t make sense.