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Malaysia – Cooking Demonstration and Dialogue with Hon. Minister Teresa Kok

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

Chef Norman Musa and the Minister of Primary Industries H.E. Ms. Teresa Kok.

An event entitled “Cooking Demonstration with Chef Norman Musa, featuring Special Dialogue on Sustainable Malaysian Palm Oil with The Honourable Teresa Kok, Minister of Primary Industries of Malaysia” was held on 14 February 2020 at the Malaysian Ambassador’s Residence, Rumah Malaysia in Wassenaar.

The event was organised by the Embassy of Malaysia with support from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Tourism Malaysia Office in The Hague and the Ladies Association of the Embassy of Malaysia (PERWAKILAN), in conjunction with the Working Visit of the Minister to the Netherlands from 13 until 15 February 2020.

Meet-and-Greet Session with Chef Norman Musa

Before the event commenced, the guests had the opportunity to have a meet-and-greet session with Chef Norman Musa, a Malaysian chef currently based in the Netherlands. He informed the guests that it is his mission to promote Malaysian culinary in the Europe, especially in the Netherlands. He was wearing an apron with the Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) logo, as if to add force to his words. This logo will be displayed on Tram 1 in The Hague during the months of March and April.

The guests responded enthusiastically when they were told that he will appear on a new cooking show in which he will be cooking with well-known personalities from the Dutch world of culinary. Food is also the main attraction in Malaysia’s tourism campaign that promote Malaysia as a home to a tapestry of flavours.

Dr. Mohd. Norhisyam Mohd. Yusof, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Malaysia in the Netherlands, Chef Norman Musa and Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok.

Cooking Demonstration by Chef Norman Musa

Upon the arrival of Minister Teresa Kok and her delegation, the guests were invited to the Residence’s kitchen to watch the cooking demonstration by Chef Norman Musa. He showed the guests how to make net pancake (Roti Jala), a traditional Malaysian snack that Malaysians usually have for special occasion.

Using a kitchen utensil that looked like a funnel with narrow tubes at the bottom, Chef Norman Musa demonstrated his cooking skill by pouring the batter slowly in circular movements into a pan thinly greased with red palm oil. He subsequently showed how to fold the pancake that was then served with chicken curry. The first cooked Roti Jala earned the guests’ applause. Then it was the Minister’s turn and she also managed to make a beautiful Roti Jala.

The guests also had a go at making their own Roti Jala. When Chef Norman Musa said that other than the usual chicken curry, you could also eat the Roti Jala with durian sauce, one of the guests could not help but saying that he was glad that there was no durian in the kitchen. Everyone burst into laughter. When the Roti Jala and chicken curry were served, we could hear the ‘aahhh’ and ‘uuhhh’ expression from the guests enjoying the great taste of the famous Malaysian snacks. 

Sitting at the table are Jeroen Douglas, Executive Director of Solidaridad Network and Dr. Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir, Director General of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). The minister and Dr. Mohd. Norhisyam Mohd. Yusof, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Malaysia in the Netherlands are in the background.

Presentation on Sustainable Malaysian Palm Oil and Dialogue Session with Minister of Primary Industries of Malaysia

After the cooking demonstration, Dr. Mohd. Norhisyam Mohd. Yusof, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Malaysia in the Netherlands, ushered the guests to the main hall for the dialogue session and introduced Minister Teresa Kok. The Minister informed that her visit to the Netherlands was part of the Malaysian palm oil economic and promotion mission to Europe. This mission constitutes Malaysia’s ongoing efforts to promote sustainable palm oil and palm-based products to key markets as well as to engage and address anti-palm oil sentiments in the region.

The dialogue session began with a presentation given by Dr. Kalyana Sundram, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC). He started with some general information about palm oil, including the fact that palm oil tree originates from West Africa, was introduced into the Malay Peninsular by a Frenchman in the 19th century and can only grow 10 degrees north and south of the Equator. Today, palm oil can be found in many products. European consumers often do not realise that the products they use on a daily basis contain palm oil, including hygienic or cosmetic products/toiletries such as toothpaste, body lotion, shampoo and many more. 

Dr. Kalyana Sundram, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

He then went on to say that palm oil is a functional and versatile product. Unlike, for example, sunflower oil, is not a genetically modified organism (GMO). Furthermore, the palm oil tree has the highest yield compared to other vegetable oil crops, thus less land is needed to produce palm oil. Palm oil yields 3.56 tonne/hectare while soybean oil yields 0.45 tonne/hectare, sunflower oil yields 0.50 tonne/hectare and rapeseed oil yields 0.77 tonne/hectare.

In addition, the MPOC CEO touched upon the health benefits of red palm oil. The large amount of Vitamin A Carotenoids in red palm oil may help prevent blindness and cancer, while the large amount of Vitamin E Tocotrienols may help boost brain health and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Dr. Sundram also addressed the European criticism of the Malaysian palm oil industry. In response to this criticism, Malaysia developed the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification. This certification is mandatory throughout the entire supply chain of palm oil. As part of MSPO, the palm oil industry players have to replant forest trees and contribute to wildlife conservation.  

Another European point of criticism is deforestation. According to Dr. Sundram, only 0.4 cubic metres per hectare is used for palm oil trees. He also pointed out that Malaysia has adopted a new government policy, i.e. that the extension of the palm oil industry will be limited. He reiterated the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s pledge at the Rio Earth Summit 1992 that Malaysia would maintain at least 50% of the tropical rainforest and today 55.3% of the rainforest remains, which is more than the 30% of primary forest that remains in Europe. 

Although producing fully sustainable palm oil is an ongoing effort, Dr. Sundram gave assurance that Malaysia is fully committed to it. The Cabinet of Malaysia on 22 March 2019 endorsed important principled policies toward sustainable oil palm cultivation, namely, to ban the conversion of forest reserved areas for oil palm cultivation; to ban future planting of palm oil in peat land areas; and to cap total palm oil cultivated area to 6.5 million hectares.

He also emphasised the socio-economic importance of the palm oil industry for Malaysia, which among others, is an effective tool to overcome poverty among the underprivileged. To date, it has alleviated 2 million Malaysians out of poverty and it employs more than 500,000 small farmers. In this regard, the palm oil industry possesses a strategic value in the government’s efforts to achieve an equitable development and in fighting poverty, two main components of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Dr. Sundram ended the presentation with a brief explanation about the “Love MY Palm Oil Campaign,” which is meant to inform Malaysians about sustainable palm oil and make them proud ambassadors of it. In short, Malaysia is ready to provide Europe with sustainable palm oil. Guests also watched a short BBC documentary entitled “The Truth about My Make-Up” which told the story about palm oil use in cosmetic industry and the underprivileged people who rely heavily on palm oil for their livelihoods.

After the presentation, the guests were invited to ask questions to the Minister and her delegation about palm oil. Among the delegation were representatives from the Palm Oil and Sago Industry Development Division, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council. One of the guests commended the presentation as it thoroughly explained the issues using compelling arguments and that the presentation had left her speechless. 

Closing

The dialogue on the issue continued during lunch when the guest had the opportunity to savour sumptuous Malaysian buffet spread (which used palm oil), including coconut-flavoured rice, chicken Kapitan curry, northern Malaysian-styled beef in soy sauce, tofu & mushrooms stir-fry, cassava pudding, curry puff and seri muka layer cake. 

And, of course, the guests were not sent away empty-handed – they received a goody bag with a bottle of ‘Harvist’ extra red palm fruit oil of premium quality, books and pamphlets about Malaysian sustainable palm oil, food products, Visit Malaysia 2020 mug as well as tourism magazine ‘Maleisië’. 

On the same day, MPOB has inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with two organisations to accelerate Malaysia’s aspirations in regard to sustainable palm oil production. The first MoU was signed with a Netherlands-based organisation which promotes sustainable trade — IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative titled Sustainable Climate Smart Palm Oil Production by Smallholders in Malaysia. The second MoU was with an international network organisation which promotes capacity building — Solidaridad Network Asia Ltd titled National Initiative for Sustainable and Climate Smart Oil Palm Smallholders (NI-SCOPS).

IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative and Solidaridad are implementing partners for the Netherlands in the NI-SCOPS programme. The projects funded by the implementing partners will provide assistance to smallholders in Malaysia and increase the adaption of the sustainable certification scheme of the smallholders through enhancing sustainable practices.

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Text and photos, courtesy Embassy Malaysia The Hague.

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