KUCHING - Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas is expected to raise a reportedly unfavourable research finding on palm oil by a Singaporean university with the island's authorities.
"I plan to visit the relevant minister in Singapore. It is very sad that it (findings) comes from our neighbour," he said when responding to a call during a dialogue here yesterday by the Malaysian Estate Owners Association to the ministry to engage the Singapore side on the matter.
Association president Joseph Tek said the university concerned should be taken to task for saying palm oil is bad for health.
In a Jan 12 article headlined "The Oily Truth", The Straits Times Singapore reported that researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) had established that eating palm oil led to higher levels of "bad" cholesterol in the body.
It said the elevated levels of low-density, lipoprotein cholesterol from eating palm oil translated into a 6 per cent higher risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death.
"What is the truth? Is the above bad science? There are a number of studies with favourable conclusions about the health aspect of palm oil consumption but unfortunately these findings did not find traction in the public media and mindsets.
"How will MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board), MPOC (Malaysian Palm Oil Council), the government and other stakeholders address such peristent misperception? Can the above research be refuted, with the ultimate aim of reversing and correcting the misperception it has caused," said Tek .
Earlier when opening the MPOC's annual Reach and Remind Friends of The Industry seminar and dialogue, Uggah said palm oil had continued to be portrayed as a contributor towards deforestation and its sustainable development perspective.
He said the onslaught against palm oil focussed on malicious allegations on its cultivation practices, health and nutritional values and impact on the environment and biodiversity.
"These allegations, while not substantiated, must be consistently and professionally addressed. The co-operation of the industry players in addressing these issues is vital to support an augment efforts by the Ministry, MPOB and MPOC," he added.
Uggah said to further promote domestic consumption and value add of palm oil products, the ministry would continue to intensify research and commercialisation of new palm-based products.
"In the longer term, this initiative, while raising the value of palm oil products, is also aimed at generating new demand for palm oil and the expanding market opportunities."
He said one area that offered new opportunities was the development of palm-based biofuels that were cost effective as such fuels are both environmentally friendly and a source of sustainable form of energy.
According to Uggah, Malaysia accounted for 31.7 per cent of the global palm oil production and 36.4 per cent of global exports last year, down from 36.7 per cent and 45.6 per cent respectively 2010.
He attributed the reductions partly to the emergence of new oil palm planting countries in the Asian region, including Indonesia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea.
MPOC chairman Datuk Lee Yeow Chor said a major initiative was launched last year in branding Malaysia palm oil, based largely on the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme.
He said the branding campaign was now ongoing in France and Belgium, and would be extended to other European countries.
Lee said Malaysia, in joining hands with several Europe-based processors and end users, had succeeded in creating formidable pro-palm oil alliances who in turn lent their support in the defence of palm oil.
He said MPOC was continuously working closely with MPOB to create science-based responses to help manage the heated health and environmental debate or even create a favourable position for palm oil.
Lee said MPOC would soon initiate its palm oil Internet seminar series.