Malaysian oil palm planters constantly aim to achieve sustainable practices, including maintaining “zero burning policies”, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Unggah Embas.
“We have always been practising (that) – zero burning. We have very clear policies to ensure that 50% of the land area in Malaysia is covered with forests. At the moment, it is 56.4% forest coverage,” Embas said.
“We have biodiversity policies which are adhered to by all parties, including the palm oil industry. The palm oil industry has shown that it is really looking into sustainable practices,” Embas, who was the former Natural Resources and Environment Minister, added.
Speaking at a press conference at the opening ceremony of the Malaysia-Myanmar Palm Oil Trade here yesterday, he said in his opening speech that environmental concerns were one of the most critical issues confronting the palm oil industry today.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron said slash-and-burn techniques were mostly used by small farmers operating outside the oil palm plantation area.
“Oil palm plantations do not need to burn and they have zero burning for land preparation. All the allegations have got to be verified. Some organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil have asked those identified to present their digital maps,” Yusof said.
“Many of them have responded, clarifying that the fires were not on their plantations. Perhaps, at the peripheries to prepare the land not for oil palm but other crops such as corn, tapioca, etc. This confusion is what some are trying to propagate. I hope there would be clearer explanation before these allegations blow out of proportion,” he added.
In the same vein, IOI Corp Bhd executive director Datuk Lee Yeow Chor said his company had zero tolerance towards the slash-and-burn technique at all its plantation areas.
“Not just us, but I believe all Malaysian plantation companies have (been) practising that for at least 20 years already. There is a certain amount of outsourcing (for land clearing) but it is all done within the policies,” Lee said.
On another matter, Lee, who is also the chairman of the MPOC, said he was optimistic that two-way palm oil trade between Malaysia and Myanmar would see strong growth this year.
Palm oil exports from Malaysia to Myanmar grew by 44% year-on-year in the first quarter of the year to 72,000 tonnes.