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  Bernama 13 Sep 06
Ministry Denies Palm Oil Industry Destroying Rainforests

ENN 13 Sep 06
Malaysia Denies Rain Forests Being Destroyed for Palm Oil Cultivation
By Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Malaysia pledged to preserve its tropical rain forests Wednesday despite efforts to expand palm oil cultivation for lucrative bio-fuel projects.

Claims by U.S. and European environment groups that thousands of hectares (acres) of jungle have been cleared to make way for new plantations are false, said S. Vijayaratnam, parliamentary secretary of the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry.

Current palm oil cultivation is only carried out in existing plantations and farms, Vijayaratnam was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.

"We're only striving to enhance yield and also the oil extraction ratio," Vijayaratnam said in a briefing at Parliament. He couldn't immediately be reached to confirm the comments.

Malaysia, the world's biggest palm oil producer, has been working to promote fuel blended with palm oil as an alternative to traditional fuel. Global interest in alternative energy sources has increased amid escalating crude oil prices.

But Western activists warn that the palm oil industry in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia -- coupled with rampant logging activities -- was destroying large tracts of forests and encroaching on the habitats of endangered species.

Malaysia is researching other crops and vegetables that could be blended into bio-fuels, Vijayaratnam said, noting that bio-diesel is believed to be better for the environment because it uses renewable resources and contains less sulfur and hydrocarbons compared to pure fossil fuels.

Bernama 13 Sep 06
Ministry Denies Palm Oil Industry Destroying Rainforests

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 (Bernama) -- The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry has denied that oil palm cultivation activities have destroyed tropical rainforests in Malaysia.

Its parliamentary secretary, Datuk Dr S. Vijayaratnam, said the accusation by non-governmental organisations and certain quarters in the west was wrong because the cultivation activities were carried out in existing plantations and farms.

"We're only striving to enhance yields and also the oil extraction ratio. Presently, annual production by smallholders is 12 tonnes per hectare while the plantations between 16 and 18 tonnes.

"Through research and development, we will raise production to between 20 and 22 tonnes per hectare annually and the extraction ratio to 25 or 30 per cent," he said.

He was replying to Alexander Nanta Linggi (BN-Kapit) in the Dewan Rakyat today on the prospect of palm oil being used as biodiesel.

Linggi had said that the United States and European Union would not accept biodiesel made from palm oil on the grounds that the producing countries including Malaysia had destroyed thousands of hectares of tropical rainforests.

Vijayaratnam admitted that an article had been published in newspapers saying European countries would not readily accept biodiesel because it would probably cause the formation of sludge in engine cylinders and valves. However, he said this was mere speculation and had not been proven.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council had replied to the article in which it stated that biodiesel using palm oil had advantages compared to using soy beans or rape seeds, he added.

He said the ministry was also conducting research on other crops which could produce biodiesel because all vegetable oils could be used as alternatives to fossil fuel.

"Biodiesel is environmentally-friendly as it is produced using renewable resources and contains less sulphur and hydrocarbon compared to fossil fuel," he said. -- BERNAMA

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