France to seek freeze on oil palm imports; SEA countries to be affected

Oil palm farmers in Indonesia (the largest palm oil exporter) and Malaysia (the second largest) will be affected if France places a cap and progressively cuts palm oil imports at a European level. French farmers were blocking access to oil depots and at least three refineries using tonnes of onions, wood and rubble recently as part of a protest over plans to allow French oil/petrochemical company Total to use palm oil at a biofuel plant.

“We will commit at EU level to cap, to freeze based on the total 2017 volumes, the volume of imported (palm) oil to reduce it gradually in the coming years,” said French junior ecology minister Sebastien Lecornu on Europe 1 radio recently.

The move is aimed at reducing the use of palm oil blamed for causing deforestation in Southeast Asia, he said.

Meanwhile, junior minister Brune Poirson, who reports to environment minister Nicolas Hulot, has said that “France wants to stop the rise in use from one year to the other” for both palm oil and soybean oil.

It would then revise that cap depending on the conditions of forests and develop a strategy to fight deforestation, she said.

Hulot had said last year France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in the countries of origin, without detailing the measures.

Small farmers in Malaysia, the world’s second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia, said a move to cap palm oil exports at an EU level would be discriminatory, according to news reports.

In a statement sent by Faces of Palm Oil lobby group, the Southeast Asian farmers said that “this proposal is a betrayal of promises made by the French Government, and others in Europe, to the people of Malaysia.”

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said in comments reported in the Malaysian press in January that Malaysia could “rely on France” for support against the proposed ban.