What food industry articles caught the most attention in 2020? Ranking among FoodNavigator-Asia’s top 10 most-read stories for the year was this interview with Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) CEO Datuk Dr. Kalyana Sundram, in which he demands equal treatment for palm oil within the global edible oil industry. 

Malaysian palm oil was the first sustainable oil crop and it is now mandatory for the entire Malaysian palm oil industry to be certified sustainable. Datuk Sundram asked to level the playing field by requiring other oils to comply with similarly robust certification schemes. 

“Palm oil is the most consumed among the 17 edible oils in the world, [but] oil palm cultivation is heavily scrutinized and subjected to ever increasingly stricter and often ‘discriminating’ sustainability criteria,” Datuk Sundram told FoodNavigator-Asia Content Editor Pearly Neo. 

He pointed out that of all the edible oils worldwide, palm oil is the ‘only vegetable oil crop among these that has gone through stringent certification processes, either voluntary or mandatory’, and called for all such oils to be treated fairly and for discrimination against palm oil to be halted. “For example, EU cultivation of rapeseed and sunflower are not similarly and stringently certified [but] they get away with far more.”

In the article, Datuk Sundram also noted that, “Research has shown that palm oil contributes to only 2.3% of global deforestation, meaning that palm oil as a crop is not the biggest driver of deforestation, but is continuously being singled out for criticism.

“Fifty nine percent of palm oil companies have at least one commitment to deforestation, showing that we are working towards sustainable outcomes. But for [industries such as] soy and cattle, the proportion of companies with commitments is considerably lower (21% and 12%, respectively). This is a matter of concern, considering that cattle have a deforestation footprint that is nine times larger than the one associated with palm oil.”

Approximately one-third of the global supply of sustainable palm oil is produced in Malaysia. 

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