Sunday, April 11, 2010

Companies seeking RSPO cert may stagnate

Monday April 12, 2010

Companies seeking RSPO cert may stagnate

Biofuels RSPO


Sluggish demand, poor take-up rate put damper on costly move 

PETALING JAYA: The number of oil palm plantation companies seeking the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification will likely stagnate this year, said Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) chief execuive officer Datuk Mamat Salleh.

He claims that some producers from Malaysia and Indonesia were adopting a wait-and-see attitude before succumbing to the costly and stringent RSPO certification following fresh attacks by Western environmental NGOs pressuring major world consumer goods manufacturers to boycott palm oil on grounds of rainforest destruction and endangering its habitat.

"The basic economics may also prevail, such as sluggish demand for sustainable palm oil that will result in stagnating supply especially when the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission criteria were imposed on the RSPO principle and criterias (P&C) and restricted biofuel export to the European Union," added Mamat.

He told StarBiz that some Malaysian and Indonesian plantation companies which secured the RSPO certified palm oil were dissappointed by the lacklustre take-up rate from Western consumers.

He said: "They (Western consumers) wanted sustainable palm oil and we form the RSPO and defined sustainability exhaustively to comply with 3 Ps (people, planet and profit).

"We have done our part but they are not responding."

The ongoing attacks by the NGOs on oil palm companies' irresponsible agriculture practices leading to rainforest destruction managed to raise some reasonable doubt and provide a good excuse for Western consumers not to purchase even the sustainably produced palm oil.

Mamat said environment NGO Greenpeace had been crusading for the moratorium of deforestation and actively producing reports against palm oil over the past few years.

Most recently is "Milieudefensie" or the Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Holland which published a report on the unsustainable practice of IOI group at its oil palm plantation in Indonesia.

"This is not the first for FOE. In the past, FOE makes several allegations on another local plantation company based on selective and limited reporting. So, Malaysian companies should be aware and be prepared as there will be many more to come," warned Mamat.

Late last month, multinational food conglomerate Nestle decided to cease its palm oil supply from Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group on reports of rainforest destruction by Greenpeace. This mirrors the move by Unilever three months earlier to cancel its palm oil purchase from the same Indonesian company based on reports by Greenpeace.

Sainsbury's and Shell have also stated that they will not buy palm oil from Sinar Mas.

Mamat also questioned why the issue involving Nestle, Unilever, Sinar Mas and Duta Palma, which are all RSPO members, were not solved within the RSPO itself. "Why allow outside NGOs to dictate RSPO?

Of the 130 million tonnes of world oils and fats including 45 million tonnes of palm oil annually, only 1.5 million tonnes of palm oil has been certified by the RSPO as produced via sustainable methods.

This implies that about 128.5 million tonnes of world oils and fats were not certified and, also, highly subsidised or genetically modified.

On NGOs and consumer goods manufacturers, Mamat said: "They may boycott on a relatively small amount of palm oil allegedly not produced sustainably. But what about the other ingredients used in their own products, are they certified as being produced sustainably?"

He said that if the robust and exhaustive RSPO's P&C were applied to other ingredients of these products, probably most of them may not be sustainable.

"Western NGOs and consumer goods manufacturers should actually be concerned with the sustainability of all ingredients rather then practising the sustainability hypocrisy on palm oil alone," added Mamat.

He said these parties should in fact set up their own sustainability certification scheme applicable to all vegetable oils – Roundtable on Sustainable Vegetable Oils (RSVO) that comply to all 3Ps.

"Who knows, maybe every stakeholder will rush to join their scheme," said Mamat.


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