The black campaign against the palm oil industry is a reflection of the fear of non-producing countries and their efforts to protect their own vegetable oil production, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) Executive Director Mahendra Siregar said in a recent discussion here in Jakarta.
“The development of palm oil is making other vegetable oil inferior to CPO so that many countries which are non-palm oil producers impose high import tariffs,” Mahendra said, referring to Crude Palm Oil (CPO), the main product from oil palm fruits.
Siregar believed that the accusation from the European Union of palm oil industry is the main cause of deforestation is also used to hinder the development of the commodity.
He, however, remained optimistic that the campaign by Europe would not carry a significant impact on Indonesia because the European Union is no longer Indonesia’s largest market for its palm oil.
“Europe can be easily substituted market-wise. In the 1990s, maybe 75 percent of our CPO was absorbed by Europe but nowadays, it only accounts for around 14 percent only,” explaining that the market for Indonesian palm oil had now shifted to other countries such as India and China.
Economic observer Bhima Yudhistira from the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) concurred that the current “storm” hitting the palm oil industry came from European countries. “As if palm oil is sinful,” he added at the same occasion.
Yudhistira reminded that the situation could turn dangerous if the protectionist measure was also applied by other countries, as this could have a bad impact on the development of the Indonesian palm oil industry.
The Anti-Palm Oil Campaign, Who Suffers?
Palm Oil Plantation Fund Management Body (BPDPKS) Chairman Dono Boestami said that in 2017 his institutions already contributed a large amount of money to help develop the Indonesian palm oil industry.
However, Indonesian Forest Campaign with Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Indonesia Global Head Kiki Taufik was quick to comment. According to Taufik, Rp7.5 trillion of the fund allocated was not given to smallholders but was absorbed by big players such as Wilmar.
Taufik, who spoke at the same discussion, firmly said that palm oil industry players have engaged in many violations on the field amid the weak existing supervision. “The negative campaign came about because there were reasons. There were many findings of violations by palm oil companies in the field, and this is what needs to be fixed,” Taufik said.
The discussion heated up further when Gulat Manurung, representing the Indonesian Association of Palm Oil Farmers (APKASINDO), reminded everyone that the ones directly affected by the black campaign against palm oil were the farmers.
“The free-falling prices at present are causing difficulties for us. Farmers are really appreciated overseas but here, life is made even more difficult for us,” Manurung said. He also stressed that palm oil and its derivative can now be found in so many products.
“We should not be hypocritical, we all can be here at present because of palm oil. Palm oil is us,” he said.