JAKARTA — Indonesian diplomats are committed to being at the forefront as an attempt to counteract negative issues regarding palm oil and paper products in overseas markets through collaboration with a number of entrepreneurs and academics.
Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Tantowi Yahya said that a technical knowledge has become a weak point for Indonesian diplomats in developed countries. When palm oil and forest-based products, such as paper, are being attacked, they could not present adequate evidence to counter it.
“When in fact, this is all about how you convince other countries. So you cannot rely only on KBRI (Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia),” said Tantowi in Jakarta, Thursday (9/2).
Tantowi stressed that negative issues regarding Indonesian products are rooted purely from business competition. During his time as a Deputy Chairman of Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Body in People’s Representative Council (DPR), the Golkar politician claimed that he obtained insider information from a number of entrepreneurs in Europe which says that the palm oil products has caused interference with their edible oil products. As a result, they requested assistance from the government and parliamentary so the competition that was previously business to business shifted into government to government. Tantowi stated that if they couldn’t be countered, it wouldn’t be impossible for the attacks to weaken the competitive values of Indonesia’s main products. “Nevertheless, we can only dominate and control the world market through palm oil,” he acknowledged.
Director of Indonesia Palm Oil Plantation Fund Management Agency (BPDP-KS), Agustinus Antonius explained that the ongoing attacks include issues from forest and land fire, deforestation, to health effects of palm oil. On the contrary, positive steps taken by Indonesia, such as sustainable palm oil certification and its role towards people’s empowerment have gone unnoticed.
“The structure of the palm oil industry is very strong, giving farmers the opportunities to develop, since 42% of the plantation land is being handled by the farmers,” Agustinus stated at the same event.
He added that BPDP-KS has a duty to promote and advocate regarding the palm oil industry in overseas markets. Concrete steps include lobbying, participating in trade expo and scientific conference have been taken in 11 European and Asian countries last year.
“During the year 2015-2016, we focused more on visiting our ‘friend countries’ first. This year, we will be visiting countries that are against us,” he stated.
Particular attention is being given towards Europe since the strongest attacks have been coming from the region. Despite the export to the Blue Continent only consists of 25% from the total shipping of Indonesian palm oil, Europe is still being handled with concern.
BPDP-KS is also supporting European Palm Oil Alliance which consists of members from 13 European palm oil export countries. Last year, the public service agency under the Ministry of Finance has contributed 400.000 euro along with other countries to hold a campaign on palm oil.
Managing Director of Sinar Mas Group, Gandi Sulistiyanto expressed that BPDP-KS’ involvement has eliminated cost issue as an obstacle for the industry in facing negative attacks. The fund raised by the agency is also earned from the exit custom of palm oil products received by the industry.
Gandi explained that Sinar Mas has been experiencing the impact of the negative campaign, particularly on the forest and land fire in 2015. The attacks are not only hitting the palm oil products, but also the paper products manufactured by the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a company under Sinar Mas Group.
“Our ambassadors will need assistance from various associations so the misunderstanding can be explained,” he stated.
Chairman of Indonesian Association of Forest Concessionaires (APHI), Indroyono Soesilo has said that the products of the national forest industry which raw materials distributed from forest concessions have managed to contribute foreign exchange up to US $10,7 billion in 2016. The strategic value of this sector is also seen from its highest local content compared to products from other industries.
Meanwhile, palm oil entrepreneurs are facing this year with optimism after last year’s sector performance declined compared to the previous year’s performance.
The last year’s palm oil production has been hit by El Nino (long dry season) occurred in 2015. Crude palm oil production and export in 2016 has also declined for the first time in the last two decades.
Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) predicted that this year’s CPO production will reach 35,5 million tons, 11% higher compared to last year, which was only 31,5 million tons. Meanwhile, last year’s CPO production declined 3%.
Gapki admitted that they have set a conservative target for Indonesia’s main commodity export for this year. This year’s export of CPO and its derivatives has been predicted to rise up to 27 million tons compared to 26,6 million tons last year.
Source: Bisnis Indonesia Newspaper, 10 Februari 2017