Thursday, July 2, 2009


Competition is a part and parcel of life and it is an irrefutable fact that in any competition there can be only one real winner. Good sprotsmanship calls for cheering the winner, the underlying philosophy being 'participation is more important than winning'. How many takers are there for this logic? Probably very few!. Losers have always the excuse for not winning and in many competitions winning by 'hook or crook' is the main motto. But playing the winning-losing game with economic issues is not justified as is being done by powerful vested interests in the industrialized countries in hitting the palm oil industry in the south Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Palm oil is, no doubt, a food material with predominant levels of saturated triglycerides and western countries frowned upon its use for human consumption on health considerations. It was in eighties of the last millennium that a sustained campaign was started to brand palm oil as an unhealthy oil, with great potential for causing hypercholesterolemia, CVD and obesity. It took enormous efforts by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council to debunk these claims through systematic health studies involving some of the very best nutritionists in the world and it turned out palm oil can be a healthy oil, equal to other edible oils, if not better. Oil Palm growing countries also invested in technological improvements to offer more healthy products like red palm oil, palmolein and palm kernel oil. To day oils derived from Oil Palm are the most economical ones, finding extensive use in thousands of processed foods. With an annual production of 43 million tons, accounting for almost 40% of total world edible oil production, palm oil really has reached commanding heights on its own strength. Even in USA with its powerful soybean oil lobby, 1 in 10 food products on the retail market there contains palm oil and their annual consumption is more than 1 million tons.
Now comes the second wave of attack on palm oil with a few western based multi national companies alleging that palm oil is not a "green oil" because they are produced by large scale deforestation of forests which is cause for high emission of CO2, the villain that heats up our globe! They have even formed a union involving MNCs like Uniliver, L'real, Colgate, Tesco etc fancifully called Round Table On Sustainable Palm Oil with the avowed purpose of stopping deforestation of jungles in Malaysia and Indonesia and encouraging production of sustainable oil so that they can completely switch over to its use by 2015. What is amusing about this charade is that they are least concerned about auto emission by millions of petrol guzzling vehicles in their own countries which happen to be the major cause of green house effect in this planet! They are also forgetting that forests are mass destroyed in Brazil for the cultivation of sugarcane, not for human consumption but for running their automobiles. If palm oil cultivation is done in deforested areas, the organized planting of palm trees on the same land provides some green cover in no time, providing a CO2 sink there.

It is a tragedy that rich countries do not appreciate the tremendous efforts put in by the counties in South East Asia in raising the productivity of palm oil in their lands making it the most economical commercially produced edible oil, affordable to millions of low income families across the word. Palm oil yield per hectare is more than double that of coconut oil and 10 times that of canola and soybean oil. All kudos to the major producer nations who made this possible. In stead of encouraging such endeavors, the level field for logical commercial competition in the global market landscape, is being vitiated for extraneous considerations. It is a challenge the developing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia must meet squarely with the help of other fair minded nations and thwart the attempts to malign their image in the world in the name of 'sustainable agriculture'.

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