Diversify economic activity, Uggah urges smallholders in response to EU palm oil ban

Uggah (centre) receives a souvenir from Universiti Sains Malaysia's Health Campus director Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Sukari Halim after officiating at the International Biohealth Science Conference 2018 at Riverside Hotel, Kuching.

KUCHING, Jan 19: With the recent decision by the European Union (EU) Parliament to phase out imports of palm oil and related products from biofuels by the year 2021, planters and smallholders in the state are advised to diversify their economic activities and not to solely rely on a single commodity to make a living.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said by doing so, if the price of one of the commodities go down, other commodities would be able to cushion the impact, giving less headaches to farmers, planters and smallholders.

Meeting reporters after officiating at the International Biohealth Science Conference 2018 at Riverside Hotel here today, he said the state government even gave out subsidies to smallholders and farmers who cultivate more than one cash crop to encourage multiple commodities production.

“We are keeping our (state) oil palm plantations to no more than 2 million hectares for now and at the same time we are encouraging these smallholders and plantation owners to go into other industries. Particularly we are urging our smallholders to diversify their economic activities.

“All this while I have been telling our smallholders not to rely on a single crop. They must go for multiple crops, and that is why there were some changes in (government) policy where we are giving subsidies to families of smallholders having more that one activity.

“Examples of economic activities they can diversify into are goat and cattle farming, mushroom farming, and even stingless bee (apiculture). That is our strategy, so that when there is a drop in price of a commodity then probably another can cushion the impact,” said Uggah.

Uggah (second right) visits a booth displaying health products at the International Biohealth Science Conference 2018 in Kuching.

Recently, the EU Parliament decided to phase out palm oil exports from its biofuel programme by 2021.

The resolution was passed on claims that palm oil manufacturers have failed to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals on responsible consumption, production and climate action.

Uggah said he was deeply disappointed with the decision by the EU Parliament because it could affect the livelihood of local smallholders in the state.

“I am very disappointed with the decision by the EU because it will affect our smallholders. Any reduction on the demand of supplies means the price would also be affected together with the income of these smallholders,” he said.

Earlier, Uggah was officiating at the International Biohealth Science Conference 2018.

Organised by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Advanced Medical and Dental Institute in collaboration with the Sarawak Convention Bureau, the conference aims to serve as a platform to bring together researchers, clinicians and those in the industry to discuss and disseminate information on the latest advances in research and treatment in the field of biohealth science which are related to emerging infectious diseases.

The three-day forum will see the participation of 431 delegates and professionals from various corporate and government bodies, with speakers from the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore and the United Kingdom. — DayakDaily