Thursday 13 September 2018 – Although oil palm is a single crop, the issues arising from this single crop have been multifaceted and complex, often requiring scientific, economic, political, historical, environmental and social lenses to examine, analyse, and understand. Three speakers spoke at a REGIONAL ECONOMICS STUDIES SEMINAR covered some of these issues.
From left to right: Ms Leow Huey Chuen, Dr Lee Poh Onn, Ms Perpetua George, and Dr Janice Lee (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Ms Leow Huey Chuen, Director, ASEAN Plantation Research, UOB Kay Hian provided an overview of the global palm oil market by looking at its supply, demand, and value chain aspects. Indonesia and Malaysia are currently the largest producers with the next growth phase expected to occur in Africa and Latin America. Indonesia’s total planted area overtook that of Malaysia in 1997 but has been slowing down since 2014 due to more stringent requirements on sustainability. The top four oil palm consuming countries were Indonesia, India, Europe and China. The highest growth of consumption came from the Indian Sub-continent of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Europe, there has been a push towards reducing the use of palm oil as a source of biodiesel, with its domestic producers pushing for the use of rapeseed which is grown locally. The next growth phase for oil palm is expected to take place in Africa and Latin America.
Ms Leow Huey Chuen, Director, ASEAN Plantation Research, during her presentation. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Ms Perpetua “Pep” George, General Manager for Group Sustainability of Wilmar International Limited, spoke on the realities and challenges facing the oil. Sustainability forms a very important aspect of production and planting of oil palm; and the industry has generated many controversies raised by environmentlists and conservationists alike. Wilmar however has had a no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation (of people and local communities) (NDPE) policy since 2013. In spite of this, errant suppliers who have been suspended have been able to sell to non-NDPE refineries and markets that do not adhere to sustainability requirements.
Ms Perpetua George, General Manager for Group Sustainability of Wilmar International Limited discussing realities and challenges facing the oil (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Dr Janice Lee, Assistant Professor, Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, first provided an overview of the global smallholder in the oil palm sector, followed by a discussion of the changing face of an Indonesian small holder, challenges faced by smallholders in Malaysia and Indonesia, and on opportunities for growth and development. Challenges faced by small holders in Indonesia include lower yields, land tenure issues, replanting, and participation in sustainability certification schemes. In Malaysia, farmers faced the same difficulty in participating in sustainability certification schemes, but other issues included rising labour costs, and controlling pests and diseases.
Dr Janice Lee, Assistant Professor, Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, during her presentation (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Over 50 people attended this seminar.
The audience during the seminar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)