MIRI: Malaysia should not be regarded as a high risk country in terms of deforestation and it would be unfair for the European Union (EU) to put the country as the benchmark for compliance with the EU Deforestation-free Regulation (EUDR), Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said.

“The benchmark of compliance should be based on the industry itself, not the country. That way it will be better as far as the industry is concerned,” Fadillah, who is also the Minister of Plantation and Commodities, said when opening the Palm Oil Milling Technology Exhibition and Conference (Pomtec) 2023 here today.

He stressed that Malaysia will continue to discuss the matter in future meetings of the Joint Task Force (JTF), which also include the EU and Indonesia.

The task force had its first meeting on Aug 4 in Jakarta, Indonesia following their recent joint mission to Brussels in May.

The ad hoc JTF aims to address concerns raised by Indonesia and Malaysia pertaining to the EUDR implementation and to identify practical solutions and approaches.

However, the minister also shared a positive development, noting the EU’s recognition of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme as a benchmark for the country’s effort to ensure responsible practices in the industry.

This will align the certification scheme with the requirements of the EUDR which later will help to ensure Malaysia’s position in the European market whilst demonstrating long-standing commitment in producing sustainable palm oil globally.

Fadillah stressed that his ministry is taking the EUDR matter very seriously and is collectively engaging with various impacted parties to discuss commitments in facilitating the country’s efforts in combating deforestation, as well as to be excluded from being classified as a “high risk” country.

The EU’s introduction of the EUDR is ostensibly aimed at guaranteeing that products consumed and used do not contribute to deforestation or forest degradation and promoting the use of sustainable commodities in Europe.

“(However) in actual fact and in practice, the EUDR is highly expected to simply serve as another trade barrier that sets overtly strenuous and stringent requirements for agricommodity imports into European markets,” Fadillah said.

The deputy prime minister also urged palm oil mill operators throughout the country to embrace sustainable practices and to experiment with innovative methods and strategies to add value to the palm oil production chain and enhance their overall competitiveness.

The Palm Oil Milling Technology Exhibition & Conference (POMtec) 2023, themed “Toward Sustainable and Value-Added Business Operation,“ was organised by the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA).-Bernama