Tuesday, 11 November 2008

First "sustainable" palm oil on way to Rotterdam

First "sustainable" palm oil on way to Rotterdam

Reuters, Tuesday November 11 2008 Guardian.co.uk
By Catherine Hornby

ROTTERDAM, Nov 11 (Reuters) - The first shipment of palm oil which is certified as "sustainable" by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is due to reach Rotterdam next week, as critics still question whether the label is justified

Under fire for its role in rainforest and wildlife destruction, the palm oil industry established the RSPO in 2004 to develop a certification system and this first shipment is a milestone, industry leaders said on Tuesday.

"The upcoming arrival of this first batch of oil is a small but significant step towards having all the world's palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way," said Jan Kees Vis, President of the RSPO.

The 500 tonne shipment of palm oil from Malaysia to Europe's biggest port was produced by United Plantations <>
Almost half the products on an average supermarket's shelves contain palm oil, ranging from margarines and biscuits to lipsticks, shampoo and detergents.

"Any sustainability standard has to be dynamic and constantly challenged. But I'm confident that the palm oil we've bought is of a higher standard and doesn't compare with anything we have sourced before," said Fiona Wheatley, natural resources manager for Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.

The RSPO said palm oil production could be considered sustainable if it met certain criteria such as protecting and conserving the environment around the plantation and dealing with its workforce and local communities in a responsible way.

But environmental group Greenpeace said in a report on Tuesday that the system was failing to tackle issues including deforestation, peat lands clearance and land conflicts. It said the criteria needed to be toughened up.
RSPO's Vis argued that the assessment processes were sufficiently rigorous but he added that the conclusions of the Greenpeace report would be examined.

The RSPO said it expected palm oil production capacity certified as sustainable to reach 1.5 million tonnes by early 2009, compared to total annual palm oil production of more than 38 million tonnes.
Most of the demand for sustainable palm oil comes from Europe, and to some extent from the United States, Vis said.

"What we need to do is involve the other big markets where palm oil is being consumed, which are mainly China, India and local markets in central Asia and Africa."

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby, Editing by Peter Blackburn)