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AN old Latin saying goes, “It is better to suffer an injustice than to do an injustice.”

In this connection, I could not help but shake my head when reading about the proposed new tax on palm oil imports into France put forth by three senators from the French Green Party under the guise of protecting biodiversity.

Indeed, if voted through, this tax would immediately undermine the viability for food companies to use palm oil thereby effectively strangulating the demand for palm oil.

The proposal has therefore nothing to do with free trade, nothing to do with a level playing field but everything to do with injustice and discrimination that normally are virtues not in line with what the European Union (EU) preaches. This is worrisome.

The palm oil industry is by no means perfect but it is also time to recognise that an increasing number of growers in South-East Asia, be it Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand, have moved on and over the last 10 years voluntarily committed themselves to sustainability criteria through, for example, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), providing the market with certified sustainable palm oil.

I can confidently state that these standards are more stringent and thorough compared to the criteria bestowed upon the majority of farmers in the EU, Russia or the United States today. So why penalise those who are making a concerted effort in terms of embracing the “gold standard” of sustainable agriculture?

Indeed, it is difficult to believe that oil palm, which globally occupies only 0.4% of world agricultural land yet produces one-third of the world’s edible oils and fats and accounts for 62% of the world’s entire exports of oils and fats, must be exposed to such discrimination and prejudice in France whose ethos is fraternity, equality and liberty.

The proposal by the French Green Party to support discrimination instead of a “level playing field” therefore belongs to an era of the past. It is now time for the French parliamentarians to show statesmanship and to ensure that the livelihood of six million oil palm smallholders and their families will not be determined by the French Environmental Minister, Ségolène Royal, who has taken delight in having a personal vendetta against the palm oil industry.

It is now time to put an end to this injustice so justice can prevail.

CARL BEK-NIELSEN
Chief Executive Director
United Plantations Bhd
(Co-chair Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)

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