Industry responsive to sustainable devt initiatives: CM
The State Government has instructed all players in the oil palm sector to stop planting at riparian reserves and to remove all the palm trees that have already been planted in such areas, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. He said it was part of the Government’s efforts to safeguard the quality of rivers where thousands of people depend on for their daily needs, and to provide corridors for wildlife to move about. Musa said that under the recently launched Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) blueprint, promoting and enforcing sustainable palm oil production and food traceability is necessary to ensure continuous access to markets in developed countries. “This means that the process of certification and enforcement needs to be strengthened once standards are published by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( RSPO),” he said in a speech at the opening of a conference on “Progress and Challenges” organised by the East Malaysian Planters Association (EMPA) here yesterday. Musa, who was represented by Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah, said that evolving global trends have to a certain extent opened doors for stakeholders affected by the sector to put pressure on the palm oil industry to take positive measures in mitigating impact. He noted that in Sabah, the players in the industry had taken nature- friendly steps based on principles of sustainable development. According to him, the Malaysian palm oil industry is not only economically strategic and well- planned, but the industry also responds in a positive manner to the many environmental challenges it faces. “This is proven by the many steps taken to address environmental and health issues. The industry has a long history for adopting sound environmental practices such as zero burning, adherence to good agricultural practices, the use of biological agents to reduce pests and the utilisation of palm oil effluents as fertilizer. “As such, Malaysia strongly believes in taking a responsible approach and is always committed to respond to the sensitivities and needs of the environment,” said Musa. In another development, Musa noted that the significance of the Malaysian palm oil industry is reflected in terms of its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GOP), and for Sabah, the sector contributed almost RM3. 4 billion in 2005 to the state’s GDP. “It is also a key sector in employment, revenue from export, as well as economic and rural development. The popularity of palm oil is reflected through its versatility in various applications as well as reliability in terms of supply. “At global level, palm oil has assumed importance in catering to demands of the world’s oils and fats requirement and accounts for 52 per cent or the largest share in the oils and fats trade,” he said. According to him, increase by major palm oil importing countries and positive sentiments owing to rising demand for bio-diesel are expected to bring a domino effect on crude palm oil (CPO) rates. “It has been predicted that CPO will hit the RM4,000 per tonne level faster than we think, due to these factors. Another reason for this rise is the projected higher growth worldwide for oils and fats, given the tight supply of soy oil following an increase in corn usage for ethanol in the United States and soybean for bio-diesel production in Latin America.” Musa said that the Government is also actively encouraging the industry to explore downstream opportunities if palm oil and its products are to expand abroad. “Non-food sectors such as biomass, oleo-chemicals and biofuel are all undergoing rapid development and have great potential to increase the country’s revenue,” he said, urging EMPA to support and participate the Government’s efforts of developing Sabah. “The surplus 2008 State Budget of RM2.3 billion is comprehensive and focuses on developing the State’s infrastructure, eradicating poverty and bringing more progress to rural areas. “At same time, the Government is committed to enhancing public service delivery system and human capital, which will give further boost to players in the industry to explore new opportunities,” said Musa, citing the recently launched SOC holistic blueprint which covers the eastern, middle and western regions of Sabah. He assured that the SOC is set to bring maximum development and economic gains to Sabah and its people and also accelerates the growth of Sabah’s economy and bridge the rural-urban divide while ensuring sustainable management of the state’s resources. “In addition to the RM2O billion that has been allocated by the Federal Government to Sabah under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, an extra RM5 billion has been pledged to kick-start the SDC blueprint that envisages agriculture, driven by palm oil as the main driver, to turn Sabah into a centre of excellence and trade for agriculture products in Asia by 2025.,” said Musa.