CONTROVERSIAL PALM OIL – SWITZERLAND AND EUROPE ARE ALL EARS
Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer: In an area the size of Germany, monocultures have eliminated the rainforest. The environment and the local population are paying a high price for it. The major customers are industrial nations like countries in the European Union and Switzerland. Still, the problems have become more transparent: Awareness of the problems has increased and there have been some important movements on political levels!
The Swiss free trade agreement threatens to increase the palm oil demand
The Swiss economy has been urging for a free trade agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia. Both south-eastern countries have growing national economies and are the largest exporters of palm oil worldwide. The controversial palm oil has been a matter of discussion between the countries for quite some time. But there has been a development last week: the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced that the negotiations are in good progress and should be completed by the end of the first quarter of this year.
The foundation PanEco is a member of the coalition of various organisations for the environment, human rights and consumer protection, as well as of the Swiss farmers’ federation who politically promote the prohibition of palm oil in the trade agreement. Our goal is to prevent the duty-free import of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. If we do not succeed, it will mean an increased demand of palm oil in Switzerland and further elimination of the habitat of endangered species and loss of the homes of many local people.
However, the marks that were made last week look good. In a contribution of the Swiss program «10vor10» on SRF, the SECO-ambassador assured that duty-free palm oil import is out of the question and merely duty-reduced import might be an option (link below). Hope remains with this announcement. This means for the coalition: keep going and increase the pressure on the political parties. For this cause, the coalition invited two Indonesian environmentalists of the organisation WALHI and got them in touch with Swiss politicians and farmers. Conclusion: Indonesian and Swiss farmers agree on palm oil. The demand cannot grow!
Prohibition of biodiesel approved by the European Union-government
Matters are stirring in our neighbouring countries as well considering palm oil: On January 17th the European Union parliament in Brussels agreed with a large majority that in the future palm oil should not be used as fuel for cars and lorries any longer. The European Union is the fourth-largest consumer of palm oil and 46% of it is being used for biodiesel. If the parliament, as well as the European Union Council and the European Union Commission vote in favour, palm oil as fuel will be banned in all European Union countries by 2021. This would mean a significant decrease of palm oil demand.
This success was preceded by many years of debating. Various organisations for the environment and human rights in many different European Union countries collected thousands of signatures, wrote open letters and organised information sessions. This was done just to raise awareness of palm oil problematics to politicians and the population and to give a greater voice to the campaign against the growing demand of palm oil.