Why We Should not Underestimate Swiss Referendum of Boycotting Indonesian Palm Oil

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And there is another boycott of palm oil in importer countries. After the European Union with its RED II ILUC/DR, United Kingdom with its Due-diligence policy, and the United States which has banned imports of palm oil from Malaysian companies, the threat of palm oil boycott has also occurred in Switzerland.

palm oil; referendum swiss

Uniterre, which is an NGO in Switzerland, with a farmer and supported by farmers’ unions in this country succeeded in collecting public support for proposing a referendum to reject imports of palm oil from Indonesia since mid-2019. Through this referendum, Uniterre and others anti-palm oil parties want palm oil not to be included in the points of the trade cooperation agreement in the Indonesia-EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) which was ratified on 19 December 2019.

In this agreement, it was stated that the two parties exempt some commodities from taxes and cut the import tariff for Indonesian palm oil by 40 percent. This show that there is an opportunity to import palm oil from Indonesia, even though the import volume is limited up to only 10 thousand tons.

The argument behind the proposed referendum to boycotting palm oil is because anti-palm oil parties in Switzerland think that the Indonesian government does not want to apply environmental and social standards to prevent the damage of tropical forests that are linked with palm oil production. Unittere also spotlighting about social issues of workers in oil palm plantations such as low wages and child labor. Other anti-palm oil parties in Switzerland also believe that palm oil production is bad for the climate and the environment as well as for smallholders and indigenous peoples.

The real fact behind the argument for the referendum proposed by Unittere and other anti-palm oil parties in Switzerland is triggered by business competition. The vegetable oils produced in this country, such as rapeseed oil and sunflower oil, are unable to compete with palm oil from Indonesia. Indonesian palm oil is very competitive in the Switzerland market and encourages the development of the food industry, toiletries industry, personal care, and cosmetics industries that use palm oil as raw material.

Currently, Switzerland consumers use cooking oil from the pressed canola seed/rapeseed or sunflower oil produced by Switzerland farmers. Butter traded in Switzerland are also mostly produced from cow’s milk from local farmers. Import palm oil into the Switzerland market and be used by industry, it will reduce the consumption of vegetable oil and milk products produced by domestic farmers. This was confirmed by a farmer who is the one that supports the referendum, Jelena Filiponik, who said that with the trade agreement and opening access to palm oil will cause Switzerland farmers would be eliminated.

As the framework used by anti-palm oil NGOs in general, Uniterre and other anti-palm oil parties use black campaigns such as the causes of deforestation and global warming, and exploitation of labor to phase-out palm oil through referendums, when in fact their referendum was used as protectionism from business competition. However, the palm oil boycott movement has received support from the Switzerland government through the Bundeskanzlei (Switzerland Constitutional Court) by approving the referendum in November 2020. With this agreement, around eight million Switzerland people will vote to decide agree or not with palm oil imports. It is estimated that after this referendum is approved and passes verification, the referendum process will be held in March 2021.

Tungkot Sipayung, as the Executive Director of PASPI, advised to extinguish “the fire” of the black campaign of oil palm while it was still small, so that it did not grow into a big fire that burned down the surroundings. The message refers to that although the export volume of the Indonesian palm oil to Switzerland is relatively small, but the campaign to boycott palm oil should not be underestimated.

 

Therefore, the role of the Indonesian Government through Indonesian diplomats in Switzerland and Europe is urgently needed to make intensive efforts to muffle the campaign. Besides that, palm oil associations in Indonesia are also expected to make efforts to extinguish the boycott plan through the Business to Business (B to B) relationship.

The Indonesian government through the Indonesian Embassy in Bern has responded to the referendum as a form of the democratic process and their internal affairs that must be respected. However, the Indonesian Embassy has also made efforts to handle this by coordinating with some agencies both in Indonesia and in Switzerland by providing information related to the improvement of governance (moratorium and ISPO), conditions, and standards for palm oil production in Indonesia to local media and its role in increasing the welfare of oil palm farmers. The information is published on blog in English and will be added in German, French, and Italian.

Dan terjadi lagi upaya pemboikotan minyak sawit di negara importir. Setelah Uni Eropa dengan kebijakan RED II ILUC/DR, Inggris dengan kebijakan Due-diligence, dan Amerika Serikat yang telah melarang impor minyak sawit dari perusahaan Malaysia, ancaman boikot minyak sawit juga terjadi di Swiss.

palm oil; referendum swiss

Uniterre yang merupakan LSM di Swiss dengan seorang petani anggur dan didukung oleh serikat tani di negara tersebut berhasil menggalang dukungan masyarakat untuk mengajukan usulan referendum untuk menolak impor minyak sawit dari Indonesia sejak pertengahan tahun 2019. Melalui referendum tersebut, Uniterre dan pihak anti sawit lainnya menginginkan minyak sawit tidak dimasukkan kedalam poin perjanjian kerjasama perdagangan dalam Indonesia-EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) yang telah disahkan pada 19 Desember 2019.

Dalam kesepakatan kerjasama tersebut disebutkan bahwa kedua belah pihak membebaskan sejumlah komoditas dari pajak dan memangkas tarif impor minyak sawit dari Indonesia sebesar 40 persen. Artinya kerjasama perdagangan tersebut membuka peluang masuknya impor minyak sawit dari Indonesia ke Swiss, meskipun volume impor dibatasi hanya 10 ribu ton.

Argumen dibalik pengajuan referendum boikot minyak sawit karena pihak anti sawit di Swiss menganggap pemerintah Indonesia belum mau menerapkan standar lingkungan dan sosial untuk mencegah kerusakan hutan tropis yang dikaitkan dengan produksi minyak sawit. LSM Unittere juga menyoroti isu sosial tenaga kerja di perkebunan sawit seperti gaji rendah dan pekerja anak. Pihak anti sawit lainnya juga mengganggap bahwa produksi minyak sawit berdampak buruk bagi iklim dan lingkungan serta bagi petani kecil dan masyarakat adat.

Fakta sebenarnya dibalik argumen referendum yang diusulkan oleh Unittere dan pihak anti sawit lainnya di Swiss dilatarbelakangi oleh persaingan bisnis. Minyak nabati yang diproduksi di negara tersebut yaitu minyak rapeseed dan minyak bunga matahari kalah bersaing dengan minyak sawit asal Indonesia. Minyak sawit Indonesia sangat kompetitif di pasar Swiss dan mendorong berkembangnya industri pangan, industri toilleteries, personal care dan industri kosmetik yang menggunakan minyak sawit sebagai bahan baku.

Saat ini, konsumen Swiss menggunakan minyak goreng dari perasan biji canola/rapeseed atau minyak bunga matahari yang diproduksi oleh petani Swiss. Produk mentega yang diperdagangkan di Swiss juga sebagian besar diproduksi dari susu sapi hasil petani lokal. Masuknya minyak sawit ke pasar Swiss dan digunakan oleh industri di negara tersebut maka akan mengurangi penggunaan/konsumsi produk minyak nabati dan susu yang diproduksi oleh petani dalam negeri. Hal tersebut terkonfirmasi dari petani yang merupakan salah satu pendukung referendum yaitu Jelena Filiponik yang menyebutkan bahwa dengan adanya perjanjian kerjasama perdagangan dan terbukanya akses masuk minyak sawit akan menyebabkan petani Swiss tersingkir.

Sebagaimana pola kerja LSM anti sawit pada umumnya, Uniterre dan pihak anti sawit lainnya di Swiss menggunakan black campaign seperti penyebab deforestasi dan pemanasan global hingga eksploitasi tenaga kerja untuk menyingkirkan minyak sawit sawit melalui referendum, padahal sebenarnya referendum tersebut digunakan sebagai proteksionisme dari persaingan bisnis. Namun, gerakan boikot sawit tersebut telah memperoleh dukungan dari pemerintah Swiss melalui Bundeskanzlei (Mahkamah Konstitusi Swiss) dengan menyetujui referendum pada November 2020. Dengan adanya persetujuan tersebut, maka sekitar delapan juta rakyat Swiss akan memberikan suara untuk menentukan setuju atau tidak setuju terkait impor minyak sawit ke Swiss. Diperkirakan setelah referendum ini disetujui dan lolos verifikasi maka proses referendum tersebut akan dilaksanakan pada Maret tahun 2021.

Tungkot Sipayung sebagai Direktur Eksekutif PASPI berpesan untuk memadamkan “api” kampanye hitam sawit selagi masih kecil agar tidak tumbuh menjadi api besar yang membakar habis sekitarnya. Pesan tersebut merujuk pada meskipun volume perdagangan minyak sawit Indonesia di Swiss relatif kecil, namun kampanye boikot minyak sawit jangan dianggap enteng. Oleh karena itu, peran Pemerintah Indonesia melalui diplomat Indonesia di Swiss maupun Eropa sangat dibutuhkan untuk melakukan upaya yang intensif untuk meredam kampanye tersebut. Selain itu, asosiasi sawit di Indonesia juga diharapkan melakukan upaya untuk memadamkan rencana boikot tersebut melalui relasi Business to Business (B to B).

Pemerintah Indonesia melalui KBRI Bern telah menanggapi referendum sebagai bentuk proses demokrasi dan urusan internal Swiss yang harus dihormati. Namun, KBRI Bern juga telah berupaya untuk menangani hal ini dengan berkoordinasi dengan sejumlah instansi baik di Indonesia maupun di Swiss dengan memberikan informasi terkait perbaikan tata kelola (moratorium dan ISPO), kondisi dan standar produksi kelapa sawit di Indonesia kepada media lokal serta peranannya dalam peningkatan kesejahteraan petani kelapa sawit. Informasi tersebut dipublikasikan dalam blog berbahasa Inggris dan akan ditambah dalam bahasa Jerman, Perancis dan Italia.

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