Palm oil production is an integral part of Malaysia’s economy. On second thought, make that a vital part: the country is the commodity’s second largest producer in the world, after neighboring Indonesia, producing nearly 20 billion tons of palm oil annually. The industry, which accounts for up to 6% of the country’s GDP, employs close on half a million Malaysians, affording essential jobs and incomes to numerous hard-up rural communities in the process.
Yet whereas palm oil production is a boon to many producers’ wallets, it can be a curse on the environment. As with other commodities, private profits often come before the common interest. Prudence and environmental responsibility? Bah, who needs them?
But now in a welcome development, another Malaysian palm oil company has decided to lead by good example – sort of. Jaya Tiasa Holdings Bhd, a publicly listed company that owns nearly 70,000 hectares of cultivable land in Sarawak, has pledged to leave a small part of its property untouched That uncultivated portion of land won’t be much (a mere 280 hectares), but one has to start somewhere, doesn’t one?
This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of Clean Malaysia and can be read in its entirety here.
OC Perspective: There are two ways to look at this: 280 hectares is only a drop in the bucket when you are talking about an area they control that is an enormous 70,000 hectares (that’s .004 of their land). In that regard it seems like a ploy for good publicity and not much else. But on the other hand, it is a step, and journeys of change begin with steps. We at the Orangutan Conservancy hope to see much more land protected by this company and other agro-growers that also have promised to do more for the environment. Consumers are increasingly showing that they will seek out and pay more for a product that is grown sustainably, and growers that understand that and make real efforts – not just PR moves – will ultimately end up with more global customers who demand the protection of the rainforest.