Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok with British Minister of State and the Pacific Mark Field during her recent visit to Europe.

LONDON: In the face of the impending passing of the Delegated Act to phase out palm oil by the European Union, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok is positive that all is not lost as her European mission on palm oil has opened more doors for negotiations.

The minister, with her entourage of senior officials from the ministry, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC) were on a 10-day trip between May 3 and May 13 to London, Brussels, Berlin and Rome, where they met senior officials in their mission to explain Malaysia’s stand on the palm oil situation.

In Italy, where the delegation met the under-secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Manlio Di Stefano and the Environment, Land and Sea Protection Minister Sergio Costa, Kok said the response was very positive.

“They were impressed that Malaysia still has a lot of forest cover. We told them that we still have 54.8 per cent forest cover. We shared with them our efforts on sustainable palm oil certification, where the government came out with funding to help the small farmers for the certification, so they are impressed with all the efforts put in by Malaysia,” she said before leaving for Malaysia on Monday.

She added that the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Parliament, Marta Grande, had suggested the formation of an Italy-Malaysia parliamentary friendship group where the Italian parliamentarians could visit Malaysia and understand the oil palm cultivation, as well as Malaysia’s efforts to replant its forest.

The Italians, she said, with the new information available, felt there should be an ongoing discussion on issues relating to palm oil.

She said senior officials at the Vatican had also proposed the setting up of a team of scientists from the Academy of Science of the Vatican to evaluate Malaysia’s report on red palm oil.

“If red palm oil is proven to be helpful to the children of poorer countries, where it will be easier for some international groups including the Vatican, to feed the poor, they are going to consider the promotion of red palm oil.

“They will also send a representative to attend a biodiversity conference in July in Kuala Lumpur, where we will discuss further on how to promote palm oil especially in those regions that need food aid and international aid,” Kok said of her meeting with Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See.

The minister reiterated the importance of inviting European lawmakers and journalists to visit Malaysia and have a clearer picture of all the sustainability efforts that have been done and to invite them to participate in the one million tree-planting efforts in Sabah.

Although the minister felt that the Delegated Act by the EU would be passed and adopted by the EU, the doors were still open for discussion.

“We just need to work harder with different groups to explain our country’s situation more often.

“We also need to look at our communication strategies in Europe.”

Before her departure after the 10-day palm oil economic and promotion mission, the minister also met British Minister of Primary Industries for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Therese Coffey and Minister of State and the Pacific Mark Field.