Even reporters are now questioning why certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are unfairly blaming palm oil for deforestation. As Star newspaper business reporter Zunaira Saieed wrote recently, the oil palm crop takes up only 0.1 percent or 15.6 million hectares worldwide. The Star interviewed Malaysian Palm Oil Council Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Dr. Yusof Basiron, who explained that Malaysia’s palm oil is responsibly produced.

Putting the world’s crops into perspective

“The livestock industry in 2012 utilized 31 percent or 4.7 billion hectares of the world’s total land area. That’s 300 times more land area than that used by the palm oil industry,” said Yusof.

Yusof explained that while NGOs are concerned about rapid land clearing, there is a lack of proper research to back its targeting of the palm oil industry. Malaysia has set aside 56.5 percent of its total land area for conservation. Among the criteria for Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification is that oil palm should not be cultivated on forest reserve land. “This is not a newly introduced criterion but an ongoing practice all this while,” noted Yusof.

“Furthermore, oil palm plantations are a “net carbon sink” that absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere daily, which mitigates climate change,” Yusof told the Star. “Oil palm removes 1,719 to 1,897 tons of carbon dioxide annually, reducing the carbon debt of the industry over time.”

Malaysian palm oil is a more efficient use of land than other oils

The high yield of oil from each hectare of oil palm cultivated, averaging 4.2 tons/hectare/year means that it requires less land to produce the same amount of oil as other vegetable oil crops such as soy, canola (rapeseed) or sunflower. By comparison, soy oil produces 0.36 tons/hectare/year, canola produces 0.42 tons/hectare/year, and sunflower produces 0.59 tons/hectare a year.

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