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Asian palm oil producers offers to work with EU as it readies new food rules

FILE PHOTO: A palm oil seed is seen at a plantation in Pulau Carey, Malaysia, January 31, 2020. Picture taken January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Asian palm oil producers, long at loggerheads with the European Union over curbs on imports of the edible oil, have offered to “work together” with the European Commission in drafting rules for the EU’s latest ‘Farm to Fork’ food supply policy.

The EU, a major palm importer, has already decided to phase out palm-based transport fuels from its renewable energy sector by 2030, citing the environmental impact of the oil’s production, and is expected to set new limits on food contaminant 3-MCPD esters, found in refined fats and oils.

In a statement late on Thursday, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), led by top producers Indonesia and Malaysia, said, “The Farm to Fork strategy recently launched by the European Commission offers a major opportunity for us all to work together and further improve sustainability standards.”

“We want to be part of this discussion, not mere spectators,” it said.

Neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85% of the world’s palm oil, and have been battling criticism of rampant clearing of tropical forests for palm cultivation.

The EU in May announced proposals for a “fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system”, raising alarm bells that it could decide to implement its own sustainability standard for palm oil in food.

CPOPC had previous accused the EU of unfairly targeting palm oil and creating trade barriers, and again voiced frustration in its Thursday statement, referring to “constant, exasperating attacks on our industry every day”.

Indonesia in December filed a World Trade Organization suit against the EU over its ban on palm-based biofuel, and Malaysia is expected to follow suit.

Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell