Independent oil palm smallholders can look forward to affiliating their holdings to the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification standard, launched by the government in January.

As implementation is backed by an initial fund of RM50 million, independent smallholders are likely to be more receptive of MSPO certification compared to that of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s first such standard.

Independent Malaysian smallholders with an oil palm holding of 40 ha and below have found it too expensive to fork out the certification fee of RM10,000 to get RSPO agents to audit the production process, notes National Association of Smallholders (NASH) president Datuk Aliasak Ambia.

RSPO auditing also questions smallholders about crop yield, as well as agricultural and management practices. This has resulted in many smallholders in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia rejecting the global certification standard, he says.

However, independent oil palm smallholders in Malaysia are becoming more aware of the importance of getting their plantations and products certified ‘sustainable’ in line with increasing demand from major markets, particularly in the European Union and the US.

Aliasak says it is now vital for the government to promote the MSPO so that it is recognised worldwide. He expressed his belief that this can be achieved “even though it will not be an easy feat”.

“RSPO certification may be dictated by the Western market players’ grouping. [Hence] it is most important for MSPO to be driven by oil palm growers. It is also important to highlight that Malaysian palm oil is of superior quality and sustainably produced from plantation to the table,” he says.

A MSPO committee has been formed under the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry to look into certification matters.

“I believe that, once the grant has been disbursed, the auditing process can be carried out almost immediately. Before the end of this year, at least four to five independent smallholders will be able to qualify for MSPO certification,” says Aliasak.

NASH expects to hold roadshows in various locations around the country to alert smallholders to the latest developments.
“[We had carried out] a similar [programme] under the RSPO banner, but it proved unpopular because of the costly [certification] procedure. I am positive this time round, with the grant allocated by the government, smallholders will support this new initiative,” Aliasak says.

NASH is currently awaiting the green light from the MSPO committee and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, which is the national palm oil custodian and driver of the MSPO standard.

To make MSPO certification work and simplify auditing, Aliasak also suggests tapping the resources of the 64 smallholders’ cooperatives and pooling smallholders into groupings.

The RSPO has recognised Malaysia as one of the biggest producers of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), contributing 42% of the world’s supply and accounting for 43% of CSPO growers.

Indonesia, the largest palm oil producer, has its own standard – Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil – which has been made compulsory for all growers since 2011.

Source: StarBizWeek, July 4, 2015

This is an edited version of the article.



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