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Malaysian Prime Minister Denies Palm Oil’s Relationship with Deforestation

August 23, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 (Reuters / EP) –

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that the relationship between palm oil production and deforestation “has no basis, is unfair and unjustified,” and said that the industry has developed responsibly.

Malaysia is the world's second largest producer of palm oil, just behind Indonesia, a product used in many things, from chocolates to lipstick. Several studies have shown that the production of this vegetable fat is largely responsible for deforestation, along with cattle grazing and soy production. Malaysia and Indonesia together produce 85 percent of the world's palm oil.

The European Union has passed a new law this year to progressively remove palm oil from the list of biofuels by 2030. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), based in Switzerland and composed of several governments, environmental associations and scientists, has stated that the expansion of oil palm is responsible for deforestation and degradation of natural habitats in tropical Asia and South and Central America.

The prime minister has said that “the allegations that relate palm oil to deforestation” have a “negative impact on Malaysia, which relies heavily on the palm oil industry to improve the socio-economic well-being of our population.” . He added that the industry develops in a responsible and sustainable way.

According to IUCN, at least 50 percent of deforestation on the island of Borneo, whose territory is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, between 2005 and 2015, is related to the development of the palm oil industry. Some environmentalists and local activists have said that deforestation continues today in Borneo and other regions of Malaysia.

The president explained that they will focus efforts on increasing productivity instead of expanding the cultivated area, which aims to limit 6.55 million hectares by 2023, an objective already set by the minister in charge of palm oil production.