KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — The National Association of Smallholders Malaysia (NASH) has slammed the United States ban on palm oil products produced by Felda Global Ventures (FGV).
In a statement, NASH deputy president, Adzmi Hassan, labelled the decision as a “reckless act” as it will adversely affect Felda settlers’ livelihoods.
“The majority of Felda settlers sell their Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) to FGV factories as one of their commitments and support to FGV.
“US action will give a negative impact to more than 32,000 of NASH members consisting of Felda settlers, as well as more than 100,000 Felda settlers, especially in terms of income,” he said in the statement.
Adzmi added that the allegations made by the US Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were untrue.
“CBP accusations are unfounded, especially regarding the use of child labour as the settlers in groups have been certified under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification where under the MSPO, the issues raised do not occur as most settlers operate their own farms,” he said.
Adzmi also said that Malaysia is actively implementing Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification to all levels of the industry and this includes FGV companies.
“FGV is subject to MSPO certification implemented by the Malaysian government, where the implementation of MSPO includes assurance of environmental, economic and social aspects that are closely related to employee welfare and labour utilisation. Therefore, FGV must comply and follow the instructions issued by the government,” he added.
Adzmi urged the US authorities to provide proof of their allegations of forced labour involving FGV on the grounds that Malaysia’s reputation could be further tarnished in light of the European Union’s ongoing anti-palm oil campaign.
“The US needs to show strong evidence of forced labour by FGV before taking any drastic action. We fear this action will further tarnish Malaysia’s reputation especially in the current situation where Malaysia still trying to counter the anti-palm oil campaign implemented by the European Union,” he said.
“NASH always ensures the welfare of more than 650,000 oil palm smallholders, including Felda settlers. With an average of 5 people per household, this action will definitely affect more than three million people who depend on this commodity crop in the future.”
On October 1, Bloomberg reported the United States Customs and Border Protection had decided to block imports of palm oil and palm oil products from FGV Holdings Bhd on the grounds that a yearlong investigation “reasonably indicates” the use of forced labour.
Shipments from the company and its subsidiaries will be held back at all ports of entry to the US effective October 7.
Malaysia is the second-biggest shipper of palm oil to the US.
As recently as September 26, FGV had issued a statement to say it is fully committed to respecting human rights and upholding labour standards.