The Asian Palm Oil Alliance (APOA) held a Stakeholder meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 6th, 2023. The meeting was attended by representatives from the global sustainable agriculture specialist organization Solidaridad Network, apex edible oil industry associations from five major palm oil importing countries in Asia, and major stakeholders, including Godrej International. The APOA was initiated by the Solvent Extractors Association of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, together with Solidaridad with the aim of working across the world to promote sustainable palm oil and to ensure that palm oil is recognized as a high-quality, economical, and healthy vegetable oil.
Mr. Atul Chaturvedi, President of APOA, began the meeting by introducing the Asian Palm Oil Association and shared that the APOA is formed to empower several Asian countries for whom palm oil is a source of affordable food and nutrition. The APOA is expected to safeguard the economic and business interests of the palm-oil-consuming countries and create a level playing field for all oils and fats used in food, feed, and oleo chemicals in Asia. He also mentioned that in the coming year, the membership would be further expanded to include other select companies or industry organizations operating in the production and/or refining of palm oil in Asia.
Mr. Dorabh Mistry Director of Indian consumer goods company Godrej International suggested that Malaysian and Indonesian Palm oil growers and producers be invited as they are an important part of the system. He expressed his happiness that this alliance is being formed between India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as these are the countries that not only consume 40% of palm oil but also don’t create hurdles for palm oil producer countries.
Mr. Ajay Jhunjhunwala, President of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, stated that all major producers tend to respond more to demands from buyers in Europe rather than pay attention to the needs of Asian purchasers. The European Union accounts for less than 9% of the global palm oil imports. Asian buyers share for around 40%, but producers try to comply with EU’s demands and ignore Asian buyers.
Dr. Suresh Motwnai, Secretary General of APOA, stated that APOA is a coordinated platform of the palm oil consuming countries to unitedly address common problems, interests, and aspirations of the Asian palm oil sector stakeholders. This will help Asian countries to play a decisive role in defining and implementing sustainable development of the palm oil sector. He also shared that the aim of APOA is to facilitate cooperation amongst its members to secure an efficient, economical, and regular supply of sustainable palm oil adhering to national sustainability standards, national laws, and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The organization’s primary goal is to increase the consumption of sustainable palm oil in Asia while challenging negative campaigns.
Dr. Rohan Fernando, President of the Palm Oil Industry Association of Sri Lanka (POIA), expressed gratitude towards the Solvent Association of India and Solidaridad for forming the APOA and welcomed the opportunity to work together towards policy recommendations that safeguard the economic and business interests of palm oil consuming countries.
He also thanked APOA for inviting POIA to join hands with them, as this has strengthened the industry’s position in Sri Lanka, which had banned palm oil cultivation overnight, making it the only country in the world to do so. Dr. Fernando stressed the importance of expanding palm oil cultivation in Sri Lanka and permitting the export of value-added coconut oil products, which could conserve foreign exchange and help the country’s economy. Despite the challenges, Dr. Fernando is confident that the industries in Sri Lanka, including palm oil, rubber, tea, and others, will emerge stronger with the foresight and commitment of the Sri Lankan people.
In his speech, Dr. Fernando highlighted the need for consistent policies in Sri Lanka, citing the ban on artificial fertilizers and the ban on palm oil cultivation, which have negatively impacted the country’s economy. Despite the anti-palm oil sentiments in Europe, the European Palm Oil Alliance stated that Europe has not banned palm oil, while other countries in the region, such as India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have expanded their palm oil cultivation. Dr. Fernando urged policymakers in Sri Lanka to recognize the potential benefits of palm oil and take steps to expand its cultivation, which could help conserve much needed foreign exchange and contribute to the country’s economic growth.
In conclusion, the Asian Palm Oil Alliance (APOA) Stakeholders Meeting in Kuala Lumpur was a significant step towards sustainable development and cooperation among the palm oil-consuming countries in Asia. The meeting’s participants emphasized the need for collaboration to promote sustainable practices in the palm oil industry while challenging negative campaigns. APOA’s commitment to ensuring palm oil is recognized as a sustainable crop yielding high-quality, economical, and healthy vegetable oil is a welcome move, given the misconceptions that have surrounded palm oil in recent years.
As the APOA continues to expand its membership and facilitate cooperation among its members, it is hoped that more countries in the region will join hands to safeguard their economic and business interests while promoting sustainable development in the palm oil industry. It is essential to balance the needs of the industry with environmental concerns and social responsibility, and the APOA stakeholders’ meeting provided an excellent platform to advance this objective.