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Latest News
British Firms Mostly Support Malaysian Palm Oil
News From : DagangHalal.com (11/24/2010)

But the country urged to step up promotional efforts

LONDON: Top British retailers and food manufacturers are mostly supportive of local palm oil but they want Malaysia to step up its promotional efforts and communication strategies to heighten the awareness among British end-consumers of the sustainable credentials of the commodity.

This was unveiled during a dialogue session between Britain's palm oil retailers/end-users and the Malaysian palm oil delegation headed by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at the Malaysian High Commission in London on Friday.

While the interest in palm oil usage is good in Britain, the Malaysian delegation comprising the chiefs of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) was told there were still many misconceptions about palm oil among British consumers.

Many consumers are heavily influenced by the anti-palm oil campaigns of NGOs, which had extensively been playing up environmental issues such as the killing of orang utans, biodiversity and rainforest destruction, and impact on global climate change, said J. Sainsbury Plc branding director Judith Batchelar.

Sainsbury is one of Britain's top three grocery retailers.

Batchelar said: We seem to be getting more emails (from our customers) questioning the qualities of palm oil and its sustainability issues compared with other vegetable oils sold in the market.

Tesco Plc corporate responsibility director Ruth Girardet concurred, saying the retail chain was also constantly pressured by the Western media and NGOs (or non-governmental organisations) on looming issues concerning palm oil.

As a retailer, we share the equal responsibility to explain to our customers about palm oil. We need to know that our suppliers adhere to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification.

In fact, Tesco is committed to using only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, Girardet said.

Nestle UK Ltd corporate communications director Ian Rayson, meanwhile, said Malaysia must adopt a pro-active communication approach when countering the various allegations and misinformation about palm oil.

Malaysia should be telling a tomorrow's story. It is in danger of putting a defensive stance by continously comparing palm oil with our local crops like rapeseed and sunflower oils.

While palm oil may be the most efficient oil in terms of production, we (Europe) however cannot plant palm oil simply because of the unsuitable climate.

Rayson said Malaysia should focus on a more positive theme, like how palm oil could feed the world. It is also important for Malaysia to state its commitment where 58% of its land area is forest cover.

Europe's biggest biscuit maker United Biscuits (UK) Ltd, meanwhile, has targeted that by the end of 2011, all its palm oil is certified as sustainable and delivered through supply chains that are fully segregated from non-certified palm oil.

Its fats and oils director Dr Simon Roulston said: We will use only RSPO segregated, sustainable palm oil so that we can be sure the palm oil in our products is the oil from the sustainable plantations.

Currently, we have reached 70% usage of RSPO segregated palm oil.

And while Matheson & Co senior director Simon Keswick questioned the credibility of the RSPO certification, MPOC chairman Datuk Lee Yeow Chor said Malaysia supported the RSPO as it was the world's first certification programme for palm oil where companies had to adhere to its 24 strict principles and criteria.

MPOC is working with a new media company to come up with blogs, contests and short video clips to promote palm oil in Europe as part of efforts to counter the negative publicity over palm oil.

He suggested that British retailers and end-users of palm oil work together with MPOC to spread the good message on palm oil.

While many European consumers insist on RSPO certified palm oil, MPOA chief executive officer Datuk Mamat Salleh noted that the offtake for the premium oil was still not good.

Dompok, in summing up the dialogue session, said palm oil had become a victim of its own success. However, Malaysia will continue to put a clear message across that palm oil is a sustainable crop.

- The Star Online

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