'The world’s biggest palm oil producing nations, Indonesia and Malaysia, have both reportedly attempted to persuade the British government to take action after supermarket chain Iceland announced it was cutting palm oil from its own brand products.
The two countries produce 90 per cent of the global supply of the oil, which is used in swathes of food and cosmetic products, and is both countries’ main agricultural export.
Europe is the second largest market for palm oil, after India, but consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the potentially devastating environmental impact of palm oil production.
In April, Iceland said it was removing palm oil from its own-brand products. The company, which is also phasing out the use of plastics, cited concerns about environmental degradation and deforestation, which is destroying the habitats of many critically endangered species, such as the orangutan.
A freedom of information request by Unearthed – Greenpeace’s investigative journalism unit – revealed, six days after Iceland’s announcement, British diplomats had written to colleagues in Indonesia and Malaysia about how to handle the nations’ apparent concern over the supermarket’s move.
One email read: “The Indonesians and Malaysians need to recognise that these developments are being driven by (legitimate) concerns about the environmental impact of palm oil production, which they have not adequately addressed. It is not for us to argue the case for palm oil.”
Emails exchanged between officials at the Foreign Office, the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for International Development (DfID) at around the same time, suggest diplomats had been urged by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to intervene with Iceland over its opposition to palm oil.
“[The Malaysians and Indonesians] need to recognise that Iceland is a private company; HMG [the UK government] has not encouraged them [Iceland] to take this decision, but neither would it be appropriate for us to attempt to dissuade or criticise them,” wrote one Foreign Office official.'
Read more: Malaysia and Indonesia ‘put pressure on UK government’ to intervene over Iceland’s palm oil ban
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