Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/15/2013 -- Several Malaysian NGOs are concerned about recent reports that the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) is mulling over a decision to quit the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by the end of this year.
The NGOs stressed that the RSPO is the most active and progressive global institution of its sort, being a voluntary multi-stakeholder association that seeks to improve social and environmental standards in the palm oil supply chain from plantations through to buyers of retail products containing the edible oil.
Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) which is a member of the RSPO opined that looming global threats to humanity such as poverty, famine and climate change are not science fiction.
“Other threats such as disease, water and energy supply and civil wars are very real threats that our children and grand-children will have to face. Individual governments simply cannot deal with these, and the United Nations institutions are struggling to do any better.
“The big thing about RSPO is that it is voluntary and multi-stakeholder. It happens to be about palm oil but it represents a pioneering institutional model that the world needs to complement the top-down policy and law enforcement model of individual governments.
“It would be a great pity if a prominent Malaysian government-linked body decides to abandon the RSPO,” BORA Executive Director, Datuk Dr John Payne said.
Quoting a source, it was recently reported that the MPOA is considering several options, including the official launch of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard and the outcome of RSPO’s 11th Annual Meeting in November before making the exit decision.
Payne said one reason palm oil producers give for not supporting the RSPO is that the cost of implementing more stringent management and certification under the scheme’s standards is not matched by prices paid for RSPO certified palm oil.
“There is not much logic to this, given that prevailing palm oil prices depend on global supply and demand, while production costs depend on factors such as fertilizer prices and minimum wages which are beyond the RSPO’s control.
“Having an RSPO certificate is the gold standard in palm oil and producer members have guaranteed global access to all markets. It is surely worth paying a bit extra for that. Some plantations are saying that RSPO standards are actually helping them reduce production costs by forcing them to put systems in place and to streamline operations in ways that they did not bother with before,” Payne added.
In their joint statement, BORA, HUTAN, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) and WWF-Malaysia opined that it does not make sense for members to abandon the RSPO in favour of the proposed MSPO as the latter’s standards would have to be similar to the RSPO for it to gain global acceptance, apart from credibility issues should it end up becoming a national government mandated scheme.
WWF-Malaysia Executive Director and CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma said a contention among Malaysian growers is linked to the new revised principles and criteria that require them to commit to identifying and reducing sources of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2016.
“As Malaysia’s second biggest land user after logged forests, this should be seen as a step in the right direction to support Malaysia’s commitment to reduce up to 40 per cent in terms of emissions intensity of the GDP by the year 2020 compared to 2005 levels.
“It should be seen as an opportunity for the palm oil industry to innovate and position itself for long term benefits and market access of the industry,” Sharma said.
HUTAN Scientific Director Dr Marc Ancrenaz said the RSPO is the best option and the way forward for the palm oil industry.
“We have for the past 15 years worked on Orang Utan and other wildlife issues in areas that are close to oil palm plantations.
“Plantations that produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) not only improve on wildlife management but also address working conditions of plantation labourers as well as the ecological health of the community at large by calling for responsible waste management,” Ancrenaz said, adding that HUTAN was a new member of the RSPO.
LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong said Malaysians should be proud of RSPO as an association that is based locally with a Malaysian secretariat.
“The RSPO is showing how voluntary multi-stakeholder associations may just be the right thing for the future. RSPO has clear principles and criteria that all members have to commit to, and members also commit to continuous improvement. This is a great way to view and do things,” Ong said.