Dayak Palm Oil Farmers Regret French Court Decision on Palm Oil in Biofuels

Dayak oil palm farmers from Sarawak, Malaysia

​​The Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA) of Sarawak, Malaysia, read the decision of the French Constitutional Court on palm oil in biofuels with dismay.

The decision to ban palm oil from France's biofuel scheme was reported as a blow to Total Energy's plans to use palm oil as feedstock for its energy plant at La Mede. While there is no direct link between the energy producer and the palm oil grown by the Dayaks, the concern is that decisions like the French courts may lead to reduced demand overall for their produce.

DOPPA spokesperson Rita Insol stated in response to the court decision:

"As indigenous people, we are an agrarian community. Our forefathers chose to live in interior area land close to rivers and jungles which are our key sources of food. From shifting cultivation of padi, our economy evolved to rubber, pepper, cocoa and oil palm. However, out of so many crops we have cultivated, none has given us stable and good income except for oil palm. Now, we do not practice shifting cultivation anymore, which has lessened the harmful impact of open burning of land in preparation for planting of padi."

DOPPA also questioned public statements made by the French Ambassador to Malaysia. The French Ambassador, Frederic Laplanche, had said to Malaysian press recently that the EU is not banning palm oil and will continue to buy the commodity.

"Maybe the Ambassador can explain to Malaysian farmers what he meant when he said there would not be a ban. The court decision has been reported by major news channels as a ban, not simply the withdrawal of subsidies.

"DOPPA stands by Total Energy's policy to use French-grown sources of biofuels and use imported palm oil as a back-up supply. As farmers, we completely understand the need to protect local French farmers but a decision to cut out foreign farmers even when local farmers cannot meet supply requirements is difficult to understand."

The spokeswoman for DOPPA further added that:

"It is our hope that Total Energy will continue to appeal the decision and help to incorporate the harvests of Dayaks into renewable energy for the French citizen. We will be reaching out to Total Energy to see how we may support a new appeal which, at the very least, will seek to provide factual data and information on the palm oil we produce in Malaysia."

Note to editors: DOPPA is an NGO based in Sarawak, Malaysia, that was formed to protect the rights of indigenous farmers. Dayaks that rely on the cultivation of palm oil for income is estimated at 28,000 families. Traditional farms owned by these farmers are 100,000+ hectares in Sarawak state. Dayak farmers are an integral part of the supply chain for Malaysian palm oil.

Media Contact:
Rita Insol

Source: Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association