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Asia Minute: Southeast Asian leaders say palm oil faces 'discrimination'

Indonesia Palm OIl Protest
Tatan Syuflana
A farmer holds kernels of oil palm fruits during a protest near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Dozens of palm oil farmers staged the rally urging the government to lift the ban on palm oil exports, saying that it has caused significant drop to their income.

On supermarket shelves, palm oil can seem ubiquitous.

It's an ingredient in everything from toothpaste and shampoo, to chocolate and doughnuts.

Environmentalists have said that it can also play a role in the destruction of tropical forests — shrinking habitats for threatened animals from orangutans to Sumatran rhinos.

But the leaders of the two largest producers of palm oil say the situation is more complicated.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Monday he and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim are going to work together to "fight discrimination against palm oil."

The European Union plans to phase out fuels derived from palm oil by 2030; and the European Commission expects the region’s use of palm oil in food will also decline in coming years.

Their main reasoning links to deforestation on the part of some palm oil producers —as well as child labor and other issues.

But even the World Wildlife Fund supports the sustainable use of palm oil, in part because it’s a more efficient use of land than growing other kinds of vegetable oil.

They've said that the key is to certify those sustainable practices, done through a group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, now in existence for nearly 20 years.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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