Deputy Minister of Plantantion Industries and Commodities, Datuk Nasrun Mansur (Third from Left) with Chairman Palm Oil Malaysia, Datuk Lee Yeow Chor (Second Right) official launch of Malaysia Palm Oil Seminar at Shangrila Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) will continue to urge France not to discriminate palm oil with tariff or technical trade barriers that will render it uncompetitive with other edible oils, said chairman Datuk Lee Yeow Chor. Pix by Muhd Zaaba Zakeria

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) will continue to urge France not to discriminate palm oil with tariff or technical trade barriers that will render it uncompetitive with other edible oils, said chairman Datuk Lee Yeow Chor.

"We continue to seek fair and non-discriminatory treatment for palm oil when compared to other vegetable oils in Europe," Lee told reporters at Palm Oil Trade Seminar held here today.

According to a study conducted by Professor Pierre Garello from the University of Aix-Marseilles, the current tax levels for vegetable oils in France are; olive oil (4.9 per cent), rapeseed oil (11.69 per cent), sunflower oil (15.79 per cent), palm oil (21.67 per cent) and soybean oil (23.64 per cent).

Since 2012, lawmakers in France have repeatedly called for tax hikes on palm oil that would add to government coffers and aim to reduce palm oil consumption.

Four months ago, France’s Secretary of State for Biodiversity Barbara Pompili had reportedly said additional tax on palm oil will be raised in the next Parliament session.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, in his recent meeting with Pompili in Paris had highlighted to lawmakers there that palm oil exports is vital to Malaysia’s economy.

“There are more than a million people’s livelihoods and 500,000 small farmers’ businesses at stake,” Mah told Business Times in a telephone interview today.

Good diplomatic relations do not give rich countries the licence to restrict developing nations, like Malaysia, from making rightful use of their natural resources.

“Our people need to earn a decent living. Our planters need equal opportunity to trade and export palm oil at deserving market pricing,” Mah said.

Malaysia is the world’s second largest palm oil exporter, after Indonesia. Last year, France bought 215,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia for use in its food industry.

Mah said he had diplomatically highlighted to French lawmakers the first oil palm commercial planting in Malaysia was carried out by a French.

Henri Fauconnier, a planter and a writer was accorded the Prix Goncourt in 1930 for his famous novel titled "The Soul of Malaya."

The book described his experiences of planting oil palm and depicted various types of Englishmen running estates in Malaya. It also beautifully captured the appeal of the tropical rural.

"Oil palm cultivation is coming to 100 years in Malaysia. We thank France for introducing commercial oil palm planting in our country. Since 1917, the oil palm has done much to bring farmers out of poverty," Mah said.

Since 13th December 2014, the European Union Food Information for Consumers Regulation had mandated specification of vegetable oils (i.e. palm, rapeseed, sunflower, soya) on the ingredient list.

But food companies had also inserted “No Palm Oil” on the labels, which falsely insinuates palm oil is bad and needs to be avoided.

As more supermarket chains support 'Palm Oil Free' and "No Palm Oil" labelling on food and cleaning products, it tarnishes the image of the palm oil industry.

This results in the sad reality of palm oil exporters from Malaysia and Indonesia being denied equal opportunities to trade compared with other vegetables oils producers in the world.