A business forum on “Sustainable Indonesian Palm Oil in India” held on the sidelines of Global Mumbai on 25 September 2019 which was attended by around 50 participants from the business and government sector of India and Indonesia.

As briefed by the Indonesian Embassy in India, The forum noted that palm oil should be branded as healthy food products and bio-based products. There is a need to demystify the negative perception of palm oil by using scientific-based positive branding.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to India, Sidharto Suryodipuro

Ambassador Suryodipuro emphasized that the Indonesian Palm Oil is here to best serve the Indian market. India and Indonesia are the largest consumers and producer of palm oil and it is in their interest that consumers can make an educated choice for their health and environment when it comes to edible oil.

Several prominent speakers attended the event. In his remarks, Mr Joko Supriono, Chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association underlined the connection between the palm oil industry and the attainment of the SDGs. Mr Atul Chaturvedi, President of the Solvent Extractors of India, remarked that the high productivity of palm oil had made it the target of other vegetable oil producers and NGOs. Indonesia should not look far, for there is a huge market for Indonesian palm oil in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and China. He emphasized the importance of making the port-based refineries as allies of Indonesian palm oil trade with India.

The Director for Agribusiness, Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr Edi Sensudi, noted the large opportunities for Indonesian palm oil in India. However, Indonesia needs to take serious steps to overcome factors that have the potential to affect the performance of palm oil trade, including any negative perception towards palm oil, such as the environmental and health impact.

On the health aspect, health practitioner and media personality, Dr. Swati Maheswari mentioned that red palm oil is the next superfood due to its high nutritional value. Moreover, the versatility of palm oil made it an inseparable part of the derived products that we use daily. Not only palm oil has a high smoke point, stable, and long shelf life, it is also rich in vitamin A, E, linoleic acid, oleic acid, lowers LDL, as a powerful antioxidant and inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Palm oil consumed as dietary fat, as part of a healthy balanced diet, does not have an incremental risk for cardiovascular disease.

From the environmental aspect, Dr Bambang Irawan, forestry expert of Jambi University, mentioned how palm oil is playing their part in the carbon sequestration process. Oil palm’s productivity is far greater than any other vegetable oils. Oil palm satisfies 30% of the world edible oil and fat demands while using less than 7% of the world’s edible oil plantation. Mature oil palm also requires relatively less water compared to other oil crops and does not significantly affect local temperature. 

Dr. (HC) Nico Roozen of Solidaridad conveyed how the negative perception of palm oil has been pushing aside the scientific-based research on palm oil. Palm oil should play in the future economy because it is an important source in health food products, cosmetics, and bio-based products. The defensive approach should be transformed into a scientific-based positive branding of palm oil.

On the branding aspect, Mr Angshu Mallick, Deputy CEO of Adani Wilmar, focused on how the highest consumers of palm oil are low-income households with a non-vegetarian diet. The consumers’ perception is being affected by marketers and the media. However, consumers’ perception is not very positive due to low knowledge of the category. Palm oil as a category should not only be promoted but also created in the Indian market. Associations can take initiative in category creation, as they are independent entities to promote the category. 

The forum learned that the real concern is to create consensus among palm oil-producing countries against propaganda. Indonesia would like to strengthen relations beyond trade with India, including joint research to demystify palm oil by using scientific-based positive branding and a new way of branding of palm oil in India as the oil for everyone. #palm for all.

Events Desk, DiplomacyToday.in

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