‘Prove sustainability to remove palm oil ban’

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  • Plantation Ministry Secretary invites researchers to conduct studies

The Ministry of Plantation on Wednesday (5) invited biofuel researchers and independent researchers to conduct further studies on the sustainability of palm oil in order to differentiate facts from myths and to suggest a revision on the current local ban on palm oil imports.

This statement was made amidst requests from Indonesia and Malaysia to reconsider the ban imposed on palm oil imports by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Speaking to The Morning Business, Secretary to the Ministry of Plantation Raveendra Hewavitharana suggested that it is more logical that further declarations on the sustainability of oil palm cultivation be based on substantial research and evidence.

“Sri Lankan universities have the freedom to study this, and there are independent researchers in the country along with other plantation sector players who can conduct their research as well,” Hewavitharana stated.

He further stated that the Ministry is unable to declare the sustainability of oil palm cultivation seen in other countries due to the lack of research done in the country.

Meanwhile, media reports published (6th of May 2021) stated that Indonesia and Malaysia have asked for the removal of the ban as it has affected the image of the international palm oil sector, and thereby asked for the reversion of it.

Accordingly, Indonesian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Gusti Ardiyasa and Malaysian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Tan Yang Thai held discussions with Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardana.

It was also revealed that both countries offered all research details regarding palm oil.

“Following the banning of oil palm cultivation, declaring it to be hazardous to the environment and households, we cannot declare any sustainable oil palm cultivation with the lack of substantial evidence and research,” Hewavitharana added.

He continued to report that legal officers and other administrational processes are ongoing for any violations going against the palm oil ban.

With such processes going on, the Ministry Secretary suggested that it is not the best time for the Ministry to oppose the implementation of the ban without substantial research and evidence.

On the other hand, the Sri Lankan palm oil ban was criticised by several experts who are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA).

Accordingly, the RSPO consists of more than 4,000 international members who are committed to produce, source, and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO, and the EPOA encompasses several European countries that are committed to the same cause.

The RSPO and the EPOA also recently announced substantial research that validated the sustainability of palm oil, while addressing the Sri Lankan palm oil ban, labelling it to be “the first Asian country to ban palm oil”.

When queried about this matter, Hewavitharana commented: “This may be true. However, as per the situation and the present perception the country has on oil palm cultivation, it would not be the best time to rush into declarations.”

On the other hand, he noted that research is being conducted on the recent shortage of palm oil needed for the bakery and confectionery industry.

“Research is being conducted on palm oil resources that are used in bakery products to be substituted with coconut oil. Palm oil importers and stakeholders also had a meeting regarding this and the solutions to this problem,” Hewavitharana stated.

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