Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Video) Golden Oil From Green Agriculture

This clip will show viewers that has all been mislead by overzealous NGOs that knows nothing but acted as tools for local crop industry to try to use this issue as a trade barrier for palm oil. This video shows the sustainable and good practices by Malaysian palm oil industries. 

Palm Oil Industries
What's in it for me?: Working with competitors in the palm-oil industry: To improve environmental sustainability and competitive advantage?Palm Oil and Protest: An Economic History of the Ngwa Region, South-Eastern Nigeria, 1800-1980 (African Studies)

Friday, November 19, 2010

By rejecting palm, it means more lands will be deforested to plant soy or rapeseed or corn etc

Look out for the Malaysian Palm Oil Brand
Article by Dr Yusof Basiron

As we approach the year end, thousands of oil palm farmers and smallholders are relieved at the prospect of palm oil prices being maintained at more than RM 2400 per tonne for December 2009. Although the lucrative prices for 2008, which were partly influenced by high prices of petroleum, could not be repeated, the present year end daily prices of above RM 2400 per tonne signal many positive trends that await the industry in 2010.

Buyers too were happy that palm oil continues to provide them with an abundant supply of affordable raw material for various end-uses. Palm oil is still sold at a discount to soya, rapeseed and sunflowerseed oils. Malaysian palm oil suppliers are able to comply with the needs of the buyers, by adhering to the wisdom that customers are always right. In Europe, even power plant operators are able to use certified sustainable Malaysian palm oil viably to produce electricity and heat. Such power plant operators have limited choice as using locally available rapeseed oil will cause their engines to malfunction because of polymerization problems of the rapeseed oil in the engines during operations.

The EU is beginning to recognize the role of the RSPO in supplying certified sustainable palm oil for its biodiesel requirements. The EU politicians are worried of their green NGOs who would otherwise campaign on banning the use of palm oil for fuel and food. Such campaigns have recently spread to New Zealand and Australia through their Zoo authorities and ”experts’ who claim to be concerned over the orang utans and allegations of deforestation. Sustainably produced palm oil seems to be the solution to resolve the NGOs’ concerns as banning the imports of palm oil is not a real option because it would be against WTO provisions.

Buying certified sustainable palm oil seems a viable option for the EU politicians to recommend in order to avoid being harassed by the green NGOs. For this reason, the RSPO scheme should continue to be improved to meet the needs of the EU importers.

The rest of the world continues to focus on getting enough oils and fats to meet their annual needs. Most countries are net importers of oils and fats. Only Malaysia, Indonesia and Argentina are major or significant net exporters of this commodity, and for countries which are not self-sufficient they have to buy from the three net exporter countries. The EU net imports of oils and fats amount to over 8 million tonnes per year ( equivalent to half the total export of palm oil by Malaysia ), but it is also one of the most ‘demanding’ net importers, insisting that palm oil must be certified sustainable when used for biodiesel. The EU biodiesel standards have some 26 parameters which palm biodiesel exporters must comply with. These pose a daunting challenge for biodiesel producers to do business with EU importers.

Moving forward into 2010, a few issues remain unresolved. I am puzzled at the misinformation still in the minds of many important people in the EU when we recently met them during our visit to Europe.

During a private consultation in London, HRH. Prince Charles in talking to the MPOC Chairman, complained that oil palm is a mono-culture industry and lacks biodiversity. Obviously many people forget that oil palm is an agricultural crop planted on legitimate agricultural land just like soyabean or olive plantations which are also mono-cultures, and it should not be compared to biodiversity in the forests. Why must the green NGOs in the UK and their followers be opposed to the growth of agricultural crops of developing countries such as Malaysia when these crops have been grown responsibly for generations and subjected to various national regulations and laws. For Malaysia, our land use policy is based on the pledge made at the Rio Earth Summit more than 15 years ago to conserve at least 50% of the country under permanent forests (to provide for biodiversity and habitat requirements), while 25% is zoned for agriculture and another 25 % for other industrial uses. With oil palm occupying 13% of the total land area, it means that for every hectare of oil palm, the country conserves 4 hectares of permanent forests. Because land for agriculture is already limited, and the permanent forests are off-limits to agricultural conversions, oil palm plantings have been much reduced. Certainly oil palm cannot be associated with deforestation in Malaysia as it should not happen except in the distant past when the current agricultural land (making up 25% of the country) was first cleared. This was needed for the country to develop, just like other countries. In comparison the UK developed 72 % of its land for agriculture and only has 11 % retained under forest.

During another dialogue in Kuala Lumpur hosted by the Minister of Trade of the UK, he suggested that the RSPO is the right platform for the oil palm industry to engage the environmental NGOs to ensure sustainable certified palm oil can be exported to the EU. He was surprised when I told him that many of the aggressive UK NGOs refused to be members of the RSPO. In fact the palm oil producers were disappointed by RSPO promoters who promised to have the NGOs as members and stakeholders to negotiate a susccessful RSPO certification scheme. Right now the NGOs outside the RSPO are more influential and they campaign against the RSPO to make those NGOs who are members of the RSPO to appear ineffective.

During a meeting with the Economic Minister of the Netherlands we were told to supply sustainable palm oil as this is what the EU wants. We did inform her in reality that there are more than 1 million tonnes of sustainable certified RSPO palm oil potentially available from Malaysia right now, but only 10 % was imported by the EU. It is interesting to note that the EU talked of putting up US$ 2 billion to compensate developing countries to maintain their forests. In reality, RSPO is a scheme that promotes the conservation of forests, but the EU is shying from paying even the US$ 50 per tonne premium for RSPO certified palm oil. At least EU importers should pay the producers to cover the cost of certifying the oil which involves employing auditors some of whom have to fly in from the EU to conduct the auditing process. In other words, the buyers must help pay for the cost of employing the EU auditors and not ask poor farmers and oil palm workers of developing countries to fork out for the extra cost of producing certified sustainable palm oil to meet the European needs.

Many other issues relating to the habitat needs of the orang utans and global warming will continue to be associated with the oil palm industry by some misinformed people and other uninformed followers of the debate. As far as Malaysia is concerned, specialized conferences on orang utans and Green House Gases (GHG) emission and mitigation have been organized during 2009. Experts attending these conferences have no major issues to raise with the Malaysian palm oil industry during the deliberations. In fact no one raised major issues that are not already addressed by the industry. Many of the environmental allegations are not relevant to Malaysia. There were almost no real issues to debate on. On the other hand, some level of satisfaction was expressed by international experts on orang utans and GHG issues in relation to efforts undertaken by Malaysia.

It is time to brand Malaysian palm oil for better public and consumer perception. Some of the brand claims could be that Malaysia is ready to supply sustainable certified RSPO palm oil to the EU market, especially for its biodiesel requirement. The RSPO’s intention to incorporate on a voluntary basis carbon emission saving parameter in its certification criteria would be much anticipated as an important improvement to the RSPO scheme.

In preparing for the climate change meeting in Copenhagen, it was found that oil palm together with other plantation tree crops such as rubber, cocoa and coconut enable Malaysia, in addition to its 56% permanent forest cover, to classify itself as a net carbon sink country despite having industrialized for the last 52 years since achieving independent. Obviously it is the tree crops such as oil palm that have partly contributed to make Malaysia a net carbon sink country, effectively contributing to remove carbon dioxide from the globe when other countries are still haggling especially at the Copenhagen Climate Change meeting on who should be making the first move to reduce emissions given that most of these countries are net co2 emitters.

Getting the facts right has been the theme of this blog. Some readers may continue to question the facts as presented, and some even resort to claiming that these are lies. There must be a way forward where doubters can be assured of an authentic and fair source of information. One other way is for them to visit Malaysia and meet the producers and see the oil palm plantations. We have many plantation resorts where tourists can enjoy their visits to Malaysia. Another approach is to continue commenting and submitting your queries to this blog to exchange views. Malaysian palm oil is already a brand name that is sought after by discerning buyers and consumers. Improvements will continue to be introduced in 2010 and thereafter. Let us know how we can help.

 World Food Crisis
World Food Crisis Food Security in Comparative PerspectiveAn Inconvenient TruthFeeding the Future: From Fat to Famine, How to Solve the World's Food Crises (The Ingenuity Project)Food Crises and the WTO: World Trade ForumWorld Food Crisis, World Financial Crisis, What is next? - Arguments Against the Market Economy


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anti-Palm Oil Campaign Losing Credibility

GreenPeace’s anti-palm oil campaign claiming environmental damage by the practices of palm oil cultivation has been discovered to be full of false allegations and manipulation of facts against the palm oil farmers.

World Growth published the recent statement:

The revelation of a second instance within a few weeks of contrived claims, in this case misuse of herbicide by United Plantations, to discredit Southeast Asian palm oil producers shows the global campaign by environmental activists is rapidly losing credibility.

“The staged attack against United Plantations, a respectable palm oil producer compliant with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is part of a failing global campaign by environmentalists and their financiers to ruin the reputation of producers and then greenmail customers like Kraft to drop them as a supplier, harming an industry that has lifted millions of Malaysians out of poverty.” (World Growth Press Release, September 14, 2010)

In light of the above, we invite you to get the exact facts on palm oil production from the 2nd Palm Oil Summit, and learn the truths about what the industry’s outlook is all about. The conference will be aptly focused on the theme of “Achieving Sustainability through Increased Yield Performance”. For more information on the conference program, please click here.

Planet in Peril (2 DVD set)Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis, An AbridgmentSOS Planet (3-D Large Format)Deforestation (Can the Earth Cope?)Energy Crossroads: A burning need to change courseTropical Deforestation and Species ExtinctionAmazonia Expeditions: Mamiraua Reserve & Arc of Deforestation - Expedições Amazonia: Reserva Mamiraua I & Arco Do DesflorestamentoDisappearing Forests (Protect Our Planet)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The truth about oil palms and carbon sinks

Dr Lulie Melling tells OOI TEE CHING about the importance of peat soil research FORESTS are often called “the lungs of the world” — huge carbon sinks absorbing carbon dioxide emitted by the industrialised world, and producing the oxygen we need to breathe.

At the same time, agriculture is seen as “polluting” in the sense that land clearing and development release greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Environmental organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Wetlands International as well as their local affiliates take this view further by lobbying for a moratorium on planting oil palm on peat soil and the imposition of greenhouse gas criteria on palm oil exports.

In 2007, Wetlands and the Netherlands-based consultancy Alterra issued a report titled PEAT-CO2 Assessment of CO2 Emissions from Drained Peatlands in Southeast Asia alleging the region’s peatlands are going up in smoke, emitting tonnes of carbon dioxide and causing global warming.

Kuching-based Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) director Dr Lulie Melling argues that if such a claim is true, then millions of Sarawakians would have choked to death.

In reality, Sarawak’s oil palm plantations have been sequestering carbon dioxide and generating oxygen that goes back into the atmosphere while creating carbon sinks and stocks.

“People tend to forget that oil palms are trees and that they absorb carbon dioxide in the air, only to release oxygen and in the same process, convert solar energy into biomass,” says Melling in an interview in Kuching.

“Trees are trees, they function the same whether they are part of the forest or plantations.

“Since tree plantations are perennial, they are more efficient carbon sequesters than seasonal oilseeds like soy, rapeseed and sunflower. Oil palms can feed on year-round tropical sun and rainfall to create biomass, i.e. carbon stock, without any soil disturbance compared with seasonal oilseeds.” When peer-reviewed studies by soil scientists were adduced at the Round-table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meetings, it became evident that reports containing alarmist predictions were founded on calculations riddled with statistical bias and lacking in real evidence.

Last year, Brinkmann Consultancy’s recommendation to include greenhouse gas emission from peatland as a criterion for RSPO certification was rejected. TPRL’s findings had, in part, showed soil respiration at oil palm estates planted in peat had lower greenhouse gas emissions than that of untouched peatland.

This is one instance where soil research allows you to differentiate facts from mistaken assumptions about planting crops on peat soil. Good soil management, be it peat or mineral-based, is the basis for sustainable food production.

Melling says that many of the current assumptions about tropical peatland were based on the understanding of temperate peatland research.

“Tropical peat is different from temperate peat. First and foremost, tropical peat is mainly woody material, whereas temperate peat is made up of spaghnum and sedges.” The woody nature of tropical peat means there is higher lignin content. Lignin, being a more “recalcitrant” carbon than labile carbon of cellulose materials in temperate peat, highly influences the peat decomposition rate.

Furthermore, the acidic condition of tropical peat inhibits microbial population, indirectly slowing the breakdown rate and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. Heavy and frequent rainfall in Sarawak, which helps to maintain moisture content in the peat soil, also decelerates decomposition and carbon dioxide emission.

Melling goes on to explain that unlike the northern hemisphere where temperate peatland is developed for energy and horticulture, oil palm plantations in the tropical countries only use the peatland as a planting medium.

On current understanding that drainage of peatland for agriculture leads to large carbon losses from oxidation, Melling says it is “not entirely correct”. “Peat subsidence is also due to compaction, consolidation and shrinkage.

“Water management and compaction is a prerequisite to any agriculture development on tropical peatland. Consolidation of the peat increases bulk density and capillary rise, resulting in higher water-filled pore space of the peat. This leads to a more anaerobic condition, which results in a lower decomposition rate and less carbon dioxide emission.” Over the years, Melling has found that people, who are ill-informed, jealous or have vested interests, tend to get offended when she speaks out on issues. At such highly-charged meetings, it helps to stick to a simple rule: “I just do my job; I don’t try to do someone else’s job, and I don’t let anyone else do my job.” She takes a sip of tea and leans back on her office swivel chair.

“When I say I do my job, it also means I do not do someone else’s job. This is because scientists are not in the business of saving the world, nor are we vegetable oil salesmen. Science is about the process, not the purpose.” On not letting anyone else try to do her job, Melling attributes it to the highly politicised topic of climate change, especially on greenhouse gas emissions.

In many international conferences on tropical peatland management and greenhouse gas, she has witnessed how some activists and politicians, skilful at straw man arguments, were quick to label people they disagree with as “taking sides with greedy oil palm tycoons who do not care about the environment” and are “likely to condone widespread forest destruction”.

While most local scientists become silent when debates heat up and arguments get louder, Melling rises to the occasion.

Soon after she presents her data, it becomes apparent that the critics’ claims are full of speculations. Until today, these environmental activists and politicians continue to claim expertise in tropical peat despite having never waded into Sarawak’s itch-inducing and acidic peat swamps.

As early as 1995, Melling has been studying tropical peat. Despite escalating citations of her peer-reviewed research papers, she remains humble and says there is still much to learn. Recently, Melling and her team at TPRL set out to verify whether a national park, logged-over forest and oil palm plantation absorb more greenhouse gas than they emit.

Three 40m-tall Eddy Covariance towers were set up in an oil palm plantation in Sibu, a logged-over forest and Maludam National Park in Betong division. They have built-in lightning protection and the sensors are fully powered by solar panels. These instruments measure carbon flux and concentration, wind, moisture, sunshine hours, rainfall, humidity, soil moisture and water table.

When asked to comment on Malaysia’s aspiration to become a knowledge-based economy, Melling says the government needs to allocate more funds for peat soil research.

“Through Science, farmers are able to carry out sustainable agriculture that satisfies both the economic and environmental needs of food production.”

Organic Soils and Peat Materials for Sustainable AgricultureDecomposition and nitrogen dynamics of litter in peat soils from two climatic regions under different temperature regimes [An article from: European Journal of Soil Biology]Kinetics of peat soil dissolved organic carbon release to surface water. Part 2. A chemodynamic process model [An article from: Chemosphere]Elevated CO"2 concentration and nitrogen fertilisation effects on N"2O and CH"4 fluxes and biomass production of Phleum pratense on farmed peat soil [An article from: Soil Biology and Biochemistry]A Focus on Peatlands and Peat Mosses (Great Lakes Environment)The Biology of Peatlands (Biology of Habitats)