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Malaysian Supermarket Bans Products Described as ‘Palm Oil-free’

File -- A worker arranges the cooking oil processed with palm oil on display for sale at a hypermarket in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
File -- A worker arranges the cooking oil processed with palm oil on display for sale at a hypermarket in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Malaysian Supermarket Bans Poducts Described as 'Palm Oil-free'
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Malaysia’s biggest supermarket chain has announced it will not sell products that are marked ‘palm oil-free.’

The head of the company announced the move on Thursday. It is part of a campaign by Malaysia to protect the image of palm oil at home and in overseas markets.

Malaysia is the world’s second largest palm oil producer, after Indonesia. The world palm oil trade is said to be worth an estimated $60 billion. But in recent years, it has become the target of environmental activists. They say large areas of land, much of it rainforest, have been cleared to grow the trees that produce the valuable commodity.

As a result, the European Union passed an act this year requiring the slow phase out of palm oil as a renewable fuel by 2030. The EU has linked intensive efforts to expand palm oil production to deforestation.

In some areas, palm oil is used as a biodiesel fuel. But in almost 70 percent of the world, palm oil is used in cooking and food products, such as bread and pizza.

Two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, produce 85 percent of the world’s palm oil. Now, the Malaysian government is considering banning all products that are marked ‘palm oil-free.’

Ameer Ali Mydin is the managing director of Mydin Mohamed Holdings, which owns the supermarket chain. He said Mydin stores removed all products claiming to be anti-palm oil on Wednesday. He said the aim is to convey the importance of palm oil to the Malaysian economy.

Ameer Ali recently told reporters, that his company “…must support palm oil but must also make sure (to counter) the subtle messages, the marketing and branding exercises that people do…”

He said the anti-palm oil products that were removed are all imported, but he would not say how many products were affected.

Teresa Kok is Malaysia’s minister of primary industries. She welcomed Mydin’s campaign. She told reporters she hoped other stores in the country would follow suit.

In July, Malaysia’s government threatened an international school over spreading “anti-palm oil propaganda.” And Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, told some businesses in Jakarta last month to remove food products with “palm oil-free” labels from their stores.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

Emily Chow reported this story for Reuters. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

chain – n. stores having the same ownership and selling the same kinds of goods

commodity –n. a basic material that is widely traded and used

phase out –v. to stop using in steps over time

deforestation –n. the act of cutting down or burning trees in an area

convey –v. to make something known to someone

subtle –adj. clever or indirect, not easily noticed

branding –n. the process of establishing the popular image of a specific product

follow suit –v. to do the same thing someone else has done

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