Dip in EU oilseed output could spur Canada’s exports
7th Nov 2014
By Sean Pratt
The International Grains Council (IGC) is forecasting declining winter rapeseed production in the European Union and Ukraine.
It could mean Europe will have to import more Australian canola next year, which would allow Canada to export more to China.
The council estimates EU plantings will fall by four per cent to 16 million acres, the lowest level since 2012-13. “Farmers are discouraged from sowing due to low prices and reduced profitability, while new EU farm subsidy rules under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have rendered other crops relatively more attractive,” said the council in its October 2014 summary.
Yields are expected to be down because of dry seeding conditions in major production regions.
An EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is also expected to diminish yields because of high levels of insect damage in Germany and the United Kingdom, two of the EU’s top rapeseed producing countries. “Next year’s EU crop is likely to be significantly smaller,” said the council.
The EU is the world’s biggest producer of rapeseed-canola and the second largest exporter of the crop behind Canada.
Ukraine is also a major exporter. Its winter crop typically accounts for 95 per cent of the country’s total rapeseed production.
The council is forecasting 2.12 million acres will be planted in Ukraine, down nine per cent from last year’s plantings and 25 per cent below the previous five-year average.
“This is a continuation of the steady downward trend of recent seasons and reflects a gradual switch to spring-sown crops, which are less prone to damage from adverse weather,” said the council.
Yields are expected to be down as well because of reduced application of inputs caused by poor credit availability associated with the ongoing conflict with Russia. “Output is seen falling markedly year-on-year,” said the council.
That’s all good news for Canadian canola growers, said Chuck Penner, an analyst with LeftField Commodity Research. Most of Ukraine’s rapeseed is grown in the west, far away from the political turmoil in the east, but he agreed that yields will be down because of a lack of inputs.
Penner said Stratégie Grains is also forecasting a small contraction in EU rapeseed acreage. The best guess at this stage is for normal yields, which would be down from terrific yields in 2014-15.
“That will be positive. That would mean that Europe would probably start to buy more again from Australia, so then Australia stops exporting so much to China and then it helps our business,” said Penner.
Australia is expected to harvest a smaller canola crop. The Australian Oilseeds Federation estimates 3.65 million tonnes of production, down from 3.9 million tonnes in 2013-14. There has been poor winter rainfall in the core growing regions of southern New South Wales, central Victoria, the Wimmera districts and South Australia.
The IGC said plantings in Belarus are estimated at 988,000 acres, unchanged from last year. Over at Russia, its rapeseed crop is largely planted in spring.
The seven-year rich
21st Nov 2014
By Sean Pratt
The national voice for Canada’s canola industry knows nothing about a company that signed a C$1 billion deal to ship Canadian canola oil to China.
Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper and federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz recently returned from a trade mission to China, where they witnessed LeMine Investment Group sign an agreement to ship C$1 billion of canola oil to China over the next seven years.
LeMine is an Ontario condominium developer that appears to have come out of nowhere to become one of the largest suppliers of Canadian canola oil to the second largest buyer of the product behind the United States.
“I don’t know anything about this company or this specific transaction,” said Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada.
She said the council doesn’t get involved in commercial transactions, but it seems odd that the national voice for the canola industry has never heard of a company that will be exporting such an amount of oil.
“Just because we’re not aware of somebody’s involvement doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a strange deal, but I don’t know who they are,” said Miller.
To put the deal in perspective, Canada’s entire canola oil export program to China last year was 885,180 tonnes, worth C$1.06 billion. “China is one of our most important customers and this agreement ensures that they will continue to be a very promising and consistent market,” said Miller.
LeMine was contacted for this story but the company’s senior executives were in China and unable to comment. The company intends to host a news conference in Toronto in early December to discuss the deal.
LeMine provided a translated version of a Chinese news release about the deal. It was scant on details but said the deal is between LeMine and Guizhou Fengguan Group.
The Canadian canola oil will be sold through Guizhou Fengguan Group’s 416 Walmart supermarkets and 746 Fengguan Home Shops in China.
Miller was also excited about the establishment of the China-Canada Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue, which will deepen trade and investment between the two countries. “This is a helpful step towards increased economic co-operation that could facilitate better market access for Canadian canola,” she said.
Miller said it is nice to have a regular forum involving senior government officials where the canola industry can raise ongoing market access and trade policy issues, such as China’s modernisation of its food and feed safety regulations and its certification of Canadian processing plants and products.
In the meantime, Canadian canola and other oil could be facing market access issues in India. Reuters reported India’s food ministry wants to double the import tax on crude edible oils to five per cent and boost the tax on refined oils to 15 per cent from 10 per cent.
The ministry is waiting for feedback on the proposal from other ministries before sending it to cabinet for approval.
“If that is something that is being considered actively in India, then it’s something we would want to talk with our government about and try to make changes there,” said Miller.
India is not a big buyer of Canadian canola oil, but the council thinks it could become one.
India is the world’s largest importer of vegetable oil, mostly palm, soybean and sunflower oil. However, the council believes there will be a growing market for healthier oil because of the rapidly expanding middle class and the high rates of coronary disease.
What is wrong is when environmental activism spread half truths and twisted lies to vehemently attack the palm oil industry, which is a vital part of the Malaysian economy.
For all the pretense of loving Mother Nature, many environmental activists celebrate inaction.
Don’t expand oil palm estates, don’t create and don’t do. Turn off the lights and feel good about doing nothing.
Each act of undoing and unmaking becomes a profoundly “environment friendly” activity.
These green activists, who make a living of purveying half truths, like to target vicious hostility at those who choose not to be taken in by their wolf cries.
Turn out the lights and let us imagine a world free of all pollution; whether it is smelly human fart, cow belching or the exhaust smoke from the millions of cars stuck in the gridlock traffic jam of Kuala Lumpur.
Green activists regularly engage in attention-grabbing stunts from flying celebrities around the world on jet planes to releasing thousands of lanterns into the sky.
These cool-looking celebrities tell us to turn off the lights, become vegetarian, make do with less.
There are clever advertisement campaigns and catchy tunes to go along with it, too.
It is sensational and often makes headlines in the news.
This movement wraps itself in the cloak of science but in reality, is emotional and rooted in hatred for economic development.
The environmental movement is tenacious, fanatical and deceptive. Its creed is the undoing of all human progress. Ironically, there is big money to be made from that.
Attention seeking stunts have always and will continue to be the main thrust of these environmental activism.
Does it make the world a better place or does it make people feel guilty, confused and fearful?
What makes it a hypocrisy is that these green activists ― at the behest of their paymasters ― ruthlessly bully oil palm companies into surrendering to manifestos that siphon away deserving dividends of the palm oil prosperity from the average Malaysian investor.
It is just a matter of time the long arm of the law will catch up with these underhanded manoeuvrings and put the mercenaries and their friendly-looking informants in their rightful place. The truth shall prevail.
Unlike fat-salaried green activists, journalists are usually lowly paid. As the years go by, it can be easy and tempting for reporters or even editors to become blasé and indifferent.
Copy-and-paste is usually the first stage of learning a subject matter. Voice and video recordings are back-up tools. It is only when the reporter makes that time and effort to understand and reason why things are the way it is, one can say … he is delivering and is relevant to the audience.
This blog posting is dedicated to all the straight-talking people out there. You know who you are. In your overcoming fear of retribution, faith in the truth can be restored.
Apart from Wilfried Huismann, there are other courageous journalists in Europe who repeatedly face adversity and setbacks to find out what the high taxes paid by their citizens is being used for.
Below is a 6-minute documentary by Jack Thurston, co-founder of http://farmsubsidy.openspending.org/ , led by a group of European journalists, bent on identifying and tracking the €55 billion a year Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies going to “farmers”.
Among financial institutions and food giants, classified as “farmers” (because they are landowners) and receiving direct subsidy amounting to hundreds of million euros under the CAP are Rabobank, ING Bank, HSBC Bank, Deutsche Bank, Nestle, Unilever, Danone and Friesland Foods.
The EU farm subsidies is not limited to European multi-nationals. American multi-nationals like Archer Daniels Midland (a major shareholder in Singapore stock exchange-listed Wilmar International), Bunge, Cargill, Kraft Foods, which are seen as “farmers” in the EU, also receive hundreds of millions euros in subsidies under the CAP.
Rapeseed and sunflower farmers (or rather landowners) in the EU receive billions of euro dollars in subsidies to plant their crops. Over in Malaysia, oil palm planters have to pay a slew of taxes imposed by both the federal and state governments.
Oilseed farmers in the EU, rivals of oil palm farmers in Malaysia and Indonesia, are big recipients of CAP subsidies from the EU government. Incidentally, the EU government have been handing out money to green activists as well.
This same pair of generous hands handing out subsidies to its “farmers” and grants to its green activists will also be signing on the dotted line of the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia.
In view of this, it is the rightful duty of Malaysia’s lawmakers and policy makers to lend their ears to the oil palm planters and do the needful.
Similarly, oil palm planters must unite and adapt to the fast-changing world of ruthless vegetable oil politics, if they want to remain relevant in this market.
It’s pertinent for oil palm planters to be aware that the EU’s farm and export subsidies to their farmers (or rather landowners) and food companies and the EU government’s FTA negotiation with developing nations are actually two sides of the same coin.
Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing has urged the Federal Government to be more effective in tackling smear campaigns and barriers to palm oil trade in Malaysia’s free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with developed nations.
The US$50 billion (RM168 billion) global palm oil trade makes up almost 60 per cent of the world’s vegetable oils market.
The bigger the palm oil industry becomes, Masing said, the easier it is a target for smear campaigns by rivals via political means.
This is evident as Malaysia and Indonesia capture more market share in the vegetable oils trade, faster than rivals in Europe and North America, oil palm planters have had to endure false allegations of massive deforestation and land grabbing as well as lies about orangutan killings hurled by green activists.
Last year, Malaysia and Indonesia earned US$40 billion from exporting close to 50 million tonnes of palm oil, data from regulators of both countries revealed.
Masing warns of looming trade barriers under the guise of environmental protection.
“We must be more discerning. Otherwise, we would have an unacceptable situation where developed countries offer US$1 with one hand and deny us US$100 in business opportunities with the other.”
For the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the European Union (EU) FTAs to be mutually beneficial, Masing said developed countries must not dictate trade barriers such as carbon tariffs and border adjustment measures against products, services and investments of developing countries.
Estates in Malaysia plant oil palm, rubber and cocoa trees to produce cooking oil, margarine, rubber gloves and cocoa butter for global trade. This is part of the same early-stage growth pattern adopted by every major developed economy in the world, from North America to Europe.
“Now, the very same people who have already achieved developed status cite fear that Asia’s development will cause ecological degradation. The EU argues against rainforest conversion for oil palm and rubber tree planting,” Masing told Business Times, here, recently.
In curbing oil palm expansion, European lawmakers and their sponsored green activists allege that the clearing of rainforest harms biodiversity and emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, worsening global climate change.
Many people believe World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Wetlands International are protectors of the world’s forests.
“Are they bringing their own governments to justice for clear-cutting temperate forests?
Are they lobbying for reforestation in their own countries?
Are these activists completely altruistic and selfless in their devotion to the world’s forest, wildlife and indigenous people?” Masing asked.
He held up a book titled “PandaLeaks: The Dark Side of the WWF”, written by Wilfried Huismann, which tells of hypocrisy and shady deals done behind the green façade.
“I’m enhancing my knowledge on oil palm trade ethics by big traders like Wilmar, Bunge and Cargill, and green activists. I’m getting a better understanding of why barriers to palm oil trade are being erected.”
By criticising the virtues of oil palm planting and ignoring that economic growth leads to better environmental protection, he said it is questionable whether these green activists’ true commitment is to the environment or to the erection of trade barriers to benefit rapeseed farmers who are heavily-subsidised by the EU government.
He cited findings at http://farmsubsidy.openspending.org that tracks the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) beneficiaries.
For the past 55 years, European farmers have benefited from an exceptional set of subsidies. From 1995 to 2015, the cumulative budget expenditures for these farmers is seen to surpass €900 billion (RM3.7 trillion).
The CAP acts like a tariff wall around the EU by blocking agricultural imports out while keeping prices higher in the EU.
Although the EU had reduced subsidies to farmers in recent years, at an average of €55 billion a year, it remains the world’s largest agricultural support scheme.
In contrast, oil palm planting is heavily-taxed.
In welcoming recent visits to Sarawak, the minister noted foreign journalists saw that oil palm planting have improved many villagers’ lives.
“It is through the selling of fresh fruit bunches that smallholders can save enough money for their children to further their tertiary education. The state government has palm oil exports to thank for this,” Masing said.
In a separate interview from Jakarta, Indonesian Palm Oil Board chairman Derom Bangun said oil palm planters had long been victimised by trade barriers disguised as environmental protection.
A frequently-used ploy to discredit palm oil-producing countries is to take satellite imagery of a small part of the country and magnify it as logged-over areas in an attempt to give an impression that the entire rainforest system is destroyed.
Derom said Indonesia’s oil palm industry consists only 5.6 per cent of landmass while forest area remains 51.7 per cent. Many of developed nations’ forest occupy less than 15 per cent of landmass.
To be fair, they should reforest to support mitigation of global warming, which is a collective responsibility of all nations.
These activists’ strident criticisms have manifested into barriers to palm oil trade. Deforestation slurs sit oddly with the fact that oil palm is one of the world’s most sustainable crops.
Oil World, a Hamburg-based trade journal, said oil palm is the world’s most efficient oil crop because one can harvest five tonnes of oil per hectare. This is 10 times more productive than soyabean planted in the United States and five times more than rapeseed, Europe’s main oil crop.
The oil palm is seen as the national economic security crop for both Malaysia and Indonesia, Derom said.
The trees are cared for by millions of oil palm growers in both countries. At the same time, its nutritious cooking oil feeds billions of people in China, India and other developing nations.
Ebola is a deadly viral illness, first identified in 1976, which re-emerged a year ago in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Thousands of people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are losing loved ones to Ebola. We are taking this pandemic seriously,” said Malaysia Rubber Gloves Manufacturing Association president Lim Kwee Shyan.
“Much of the unfortunate deaths and suffering from Ebola is being avoided or at least mitigated with disposable gloves. We will continue to speed up the shipment for the balance medical gloves to be delivered to the affected African nations,” he told Business Times in a telephone interview yesterday.
The Ebola virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids. It starts with vague feverish symptoms, worsening until the patient begins bleeding from eyes, nose and mouth.
Among Malaysian glove companies extending a helping hand are Tekmedic Sdn Bhd, Top Glove Corp Bhd, Latexx Partners Bhd, Brightway Sdn Bhd, Careplus Bhd, Hartalega Holdings Bhd, Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd, Koon Seng Sdn Bhd, YTY Group, Adventa Bhd, WRP and Qube.
The glove companies source natural rubber from four plantation giants, namely IOI Corp Bhd, Sime Darby Bhd, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK).
Last week, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lifted the state of emergency imposed to control an Ebola outbreak that has ravaged the country. She reportedly said the move did not mean “the fight is over”, although numbers of new infections were no longer increasing.
Sirleaf said night curfews would be reduced and weekly markets could resume across Liberia. Preparations are also made for the re-opening of schools.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the death toll from the virus is now 5,177 people, almost all of them from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
“We’ve donated 5.7 million rubber gloves worth US$155,000 (or RM502,200) as part of our commitment to help Liberia fight the Ebola virus disease.
The gloves shipment, packed in three containers, arrived at the Port of Monrovia on October 31,” said a Sime Darby spokesperson.
On-going quarantine and disease prevention awareness programmes are also being carried out with Sime Darby’s workforce of almost 3,000 there.
KLK, which also operates in Liberia via its unit, Equatorial Palm Oil plc (EPO), donated US$110,000 (or RM356,400) worth of medical gloves through the initiative of the Malaysian government to the countries infected by this deadly disease.
EPO had also directly contributed US$15,000 worth of disinfectant and medical supplies such as isolation gowns, thermo flash, surgical gloves, mouth covers and shields. These are distributed to doctors, nurses, patients and the communities in Liberia.
A KLK spokesperson said, “We are implementing precautionary measures at all our operating sites in accordance with the government guidelines. “Even though there are no instances of Ebola on or around our operations at Palm Bay and Butaw estates, we will continue our efforts as we believe that with the right understanding and processes in place, this virus is avoidable and containable.”
As a step towards this initiative, IPOB, provided it gets government approval, wants to follow Malaysia’s example of establishing a dedicated funding to promote benefits of oil palm planting and create better awareness on palm oil nutrition.
“We want to promote Indonesia’s palm oil industry on a global level. We have the same spirit as Malaysia in opening up markets that are increasingly hindered by non-tariff trade barriers and protectionism,” said IPOB chairman Derom Bangun.
Oil palm planting and palm oil exports provide developing nations a path out of poverty. The growing of oil palms, the world’s most-efficient oil crop, is helping the people of Malaysia and Indonesia to improve their standard of living.
Indonesia and Malaysia supply affordable and nutritious cooking oil and margarine to billions of people in developing nations such as China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
According to Oil World trade journal, Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to export the bulk of the 56 million tonnes of palm oil traded worldwide this year. In the last five years, Malaysia earned between US$15 billion and US$20 billion (RM50 billion and RM70 billion) a year from palm oil exports.
Indonesia earns around US$15 billion annually from palm oil shipments.
“Our palm oil promotional diplomacy and market access advocacy are done on an ad hoc basis currently,” Derom told Business Times on the sidelines of the Oils & Fats Congress 2014 held here recently.
“We’re seeking a meeting with Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman on this matter, among other things.
“We hope that by formalising a dedicated funding mechanism sourced from oil palm plantations and small planters in Indonesia, we can drive these programmes more effectively with Malaysia in the international market,” he said.
Derom was responding to Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron’s suggestion recently that Malaysia is looking to Indonesia in jointly tackling smear campaigns and barriers to palm oil trade.
Derom said insidious smear campaigns on palm oil has one clear objective, which is to kill the growth of oil palm planting and reduce consumption in the global market. “Deliberately reducing consumption of palm oil will only harm our farmers’ livelihoods and our means of getting out of poverty. We must address this unfair discrimination and trade oppression more effectively,” he said.
A week later, Hasyim Widhiarto of The Jakarta Post wrote about President Jokowi’s handling of barriers to palm oil trade.
Indonesia asks EU to ease barriers on palm oil imports
Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has asked the European Union to ease import barriers on palm oil imports, mainly to help open market access for Indonesian farmers.
In a meeting with the European Council president, Herman van Rompuy, on Wednesday at the State Palace, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo personally asked the EU’s principal representative to ease the barriers to palm oil products in Europe.
“We have asked him to help us solve this problem,” Jokowi told reporters after his 30-minute closed-door meeting with the former Belgian prime minister.
“Oil palm plantations belong not only to big companies. About 45 per cent belong to farmers, so it is necessary to find a solution.”
Palm oil is the second-top contributor to total exports in Indonesia, after coal. It contributed US$19.22 billion, or 10.53 per cent, to the country’s total exports of US$182.57 billion last year.
The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (or Gabungan Pengusaha Kelapa Sawit Indonesia) announced Indonesia produced 31.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) this year, of which nine million tonnes is consumed locally and the remainder shipped overseas.
Indonesia’s largest market for CPO is India, accounting for 20 per cent of total exports, followed by the EU countries at 19 per cent and China at 15 per cent.
The Indonesian Palm Oil Board (or Dewan Minyak Sawit Indonesia) said there had been ‘black campaigns’ in Europe to reduce palm oil consumption. Oil palm planters have had to endure false allegations of massive deforestation, land grabbing and lies about orangutan killings hurled by green activists.
Half truths about palm oil, being high in saturated fats, are also being wrongly blamed as causing artery-clogging diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.
The anti-palm oil sentiment is already evident, especially in France where some food manufacturers already put defamatory “no palm oil” label on their products.
Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, the raw material used for biodiesel, suffers from recurring defamatory allegations from trading partners in the EU.
Von Rompuy said that he would take Indonesia’s request as “the council’s concern”, according to Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, who accompanied Jokowi during the meeting.
The EU is Indonesia’s third largest trading partner and the second largest foreign investor after Japan.
In his written statement, Van Rompuy said there was still “vast untapped potential” for economic relations between the EU and its Southeast Asian partner.
“The EU looks forward to engaging with the new Indonesian government in negotiations on an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. This would give a boost to bilateral trade and investment and create prosperity and jobs in both Indonesia and the EU,” he said.
Van Rompuy also applauded Indonesia’s commitment to the settlement of international conflicts through peaceful means.
“In this context, I underlined the need to achieve a lasting ceasefire in Ukraine with full implantation [especially by Russia] of the Minsk agreements, as well as the need to step up international efforts to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism,” he said.
“Indonesia is playing an important role on both fronts. It has supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has also clearly condemned the barbaric acts committed in Syria and Iraq under the false invocation of Islam.”
Van Rompuy, who took office in 2009, will step down from his current position by the end of November 2014. He will be succeeded by former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk.
Malaysian Oleochemical Manufacturers Group president Tan Kean Hua said, since 2010, major oleochemical manufacturers have upgraded their fatty acids and fatty alcohol throughput to leverage on economies of scale.
“To date, our members are churning out 2.8 million tonnes,” he said at the sidelines of Oils & Fats International Congress 2014, here, recently.
Following Turkey-based Evyap Sabun’s RM500 million investment in a 400,000 tonne-a-year oleochemical plant in Johor, Malaysia now has 19 oleochemical companies. They produce basic oleochemicals such as fatty acids, fatty alcohols, esters and refined glycerine.
Specialty chemical manufacturers, higher up the value chain, process these basic oleochemicals further and formulate them into toothpaste, soap, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, industrial lubricants and even food emulsifiers.
Since January 2013, the restructuring of the crude palm oil (CPO) tax to match that of Indonesia has levelled the playing field with Indonesia and allowed Malaysia’s palm oil exports to be more competitive.
“As long as the investing climate here is on equal footing with our neighbour, we’re able to produce and ship out more from Malaysian shores,” Tan said.
Malaysia has decided to lift the CPO tax for the four months between September and December, while the Indonesian government let the existing CPO tax structure run its course.
As palm oil prices is averaging below US$750 (RM2,512) a tonne, it is attracting zero duty in Indonesia.
“Since CPO price is currently trading below tax thresholds, the effect of lifting the CPO tax or letting it run its course is the same. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are not taxing CPO exports as long as they are trading below RM2,250 and US$750 a tonne, respectively,” he said.
But what if the CPO price were to surpass the threshold levels of RM2,250 and US$750 per tonne?
Tan pursed his lips and tactfully replied, “as palm oil downstream investors, we urge the government to be very careful and mindful about maintaining a level playing field with that of Indonesia.”
“All we ask for is for an equal chance to compete. Malaysia’s tax gap between crude and refined palm oil must mirror that of Indonesia’s. This is vital for the survival of Malaysia’s billions of ringgit of palm oil downstream investments,” he said.
According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the country exported RM8.53 billion worth of oleochemicals in the first nine months of the year. “I think this year, we should be able to do 20 per cent more than last year’s RM9.30 billion,” he added.
“What is a mockingbird? How do you spell it?” he asked.
I explained to him that a mockingbird is a creature that sings beautifully for the benefit of others and never harm anyone.
Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit them … but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something. And I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.
“They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
“That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
These lines from Chapter 10 are the source of the novel’s title; the idea of “mockingbirds” as innocent people who are frequently misunderstood, discriminated and bullied out of jealousy, prejudice, racism, bigotry, arrogant assumptions and ignorance.
Anyone who tries to hurt “mockingbirds” is actually committing a sin because these kind-hearted souls have done no harm but make the world a better place for those around them.
This novel is set out in the 1930s at a small southern state of USA, when the main form of prejudice was racism. The author lays down the moral of her story with the main characters, Atticus Finch and his young daughter Scout and teenage son, Jem.
It is a sin to turn a blind eye on bullying and hateful racism. It is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Atticus steadfastly defended Tom. He argued that if the jury succumbed to popular sentiment and pronounced Tom as guilty, the black man’s death can be equated to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.”
In today’s context, the mockingbird is the palm oil industry. The businessman seated across the lunch table asked … so, when the uninformed public chants along with the critics in condemning palm oil … it’s like ignorant children killing the mockingbird?
I nodded. He blinked despairingly. An air of solemnity descend upon us. We drank our green tea in silence.