Face-off Expected at Palm Oil Roundtable Talk

MALAYSIAN and Indonesian palm oil industry players are expected to have a face-off with other stakeholders including environmentalists at the seventh Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil meeting (RSPO) in Kuala Lumpur today.

RSPO, which also include processors, food companies, retailers, NGOs and investors, are planning for more green standards and faces a challenge to get a consensus on the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission draft which will include developing estates on peatland.

With the Copenhagen climate change talks in December, RSPO wants to show that the palm oil industry is earnest in wanting a sustainable product, and this will in turn address the climate change issue.

Its secretary-general Dr Vengeta Rao has assured that all views and wishes will be respected to enable the forum to arrive at a consensus.

“RSPO will consider a way forward to address the calls by all stakeholders. We cannot force any of our stakeholders against their wishes obviously,” he said.

But palm oil producers are already upset that, despite their voluntary efforts to comply with the various principles and criteria in their production of palm oil, new planting guidelines to GHG emissions, are being added on.

So far, 34 operating units from 11 companies, which include Sime Darby, IOI and Kulim, have been certified with a production capacity of 1.75 million tonnes of sustainable palm oil this year.

“It is sad that while our industry which produces more than 30 per cent of the 17 vegetable oils globally, should continue to be subject to such scrutiny and that too, with a standard that is already the most stringent criteria in agricultural practices,” said one of the leading oil palm growers in the country to the Business Times yesterday.

Last year, palm oil accounted for a third of the 130 million tonnes of vegetable oil produced worldwide, making it the most popular vegetable oil over others such as soya oil.

This time round, the palm oil exporters from Malaysia and Indonesia have some-thing more to cheer based on a palm oil buyers’ scorecard drawn up by the WWF, one of the main RSPO stakeholders.

According to the scorecard, RSPO certified plantations were able to supply 1.75 million tonnes of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). This represents more than one third of the European Union’s annual uptake of palm oil.

However, only a small portion has actually been bought as European buyers were reluctant to take up the premium palm oil.

European non-government organisations have hurled scathing attacks at the Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm plantations, accusing them of illegal logging and burning of rainforests which has affected biodiversity. Source : Business Times by Ropa Damodaran

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