French press review 10 February 2011
French newspapers were weighing up the pros and cons of palm oil on Thursday morning, with Le Monde praising the planting of palm trees in Liberia. Le Figaro however says palm oil plantations in Indonesia have contributed to the destruction of equatorial forests.
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salutes the return of massive, multi-national agriculture to Liberia, where the Malaysian conglomerate, Sime Darby, has just leased 220,000 hectares of land for 63 years. They plan to plant most of the land with palm trees, and eventually turn Liberia into the supply base for the entire European market. Palm oil is not just used in cooking, it is also the basic ingredient in so-called green petrol. Twenty thousand jobs will be created. Some locals are worried about the fate of small farmers in the region, whose interests will not necessarily coincide with those of Sime Darby. But the multinational is making all the right noises, assuring all parties that they are committed to fair play and sustainable development. They pay plantation workers 2,20 euros per day, which is the minimum wage for Liberia's civil servants.
All of which seems something like good news.
But then you turn to Le Figaro, where we're told that oil palm plantations have contributed to the destruction of forests in Indonesia, which may explain why the big operations are turning to Africa. Figaro says the equivalent of 300 football pitches worth of equatorial forest are destroyed every hour to create space for palm trees in Borneo and Sumatra. With the suggestion that Liberia's apparent blessing may turn into a destructive scourge.
And, as if all that wasn't bad enough, the same page of Le Figaro reports that palm oil is, shock, horror, bad for your health. It used to be marketed as the healthy replacement for so called hydrogenated oils. But, according to a health expert interviewed by Le Figaro, palm oil is itself bad fat, and is a definite risk in the development of heart disease.
Speaking of bad fat, sumo wrestlers are back in the frying pan in Japan.
According to Le Monde, 14 of the big bastards are currently being investigated on suspicion of match fixing. Apparently, the sport's authorities have evidence of e-mail messages between competitors, agreeing moves and timings for the ending of bouts, and also indicating the price for each false victory. The beneficiaries are the local mafia, who bet on the outcome, and the fighters themselves, who can avoid being relegated by buying themselves a couple of handy wins at the end of each competition.
So bad is this crisis that the big bash scheduled for Osaka in March has been cancelled.