Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Malaysia Needs To Play Its Roles In RSPO

November 03, 2009 17:17 PM

Malaysia Needs To Play Its Roles In RSPO

By Wan Nor Azura Mior Abd Aziz

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 (Bernama) -- Malaysia needs to play its roles correctly in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and has a choice of walking away from the RSPO process if it is going to undermine the palm oil industry.

RSPO secretary-general Dr Vengeta Rao, in stating this, said the country could benefit from the roundtable process as it was meant to improve the environment and to improve productivity in agriculture.

"However, if it allows itself to be bullied, of course you would be bullied," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 7th Roundtable Meeting on Sustainable Palm Oil here Tuesday.

"Because Malaysia was part of the formation, to leave it, you should give a reason. It is not that you cannot leave the RSPO, you can leave the RSPO," he said.

However, Malaysia could walk away from the RSPO process if it felt that its views were ignored and the requirements set unfair to the industry, he added.

He was asked to comment on a report that western environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were like schoolyard bullies, taking advantage of palm oil producing countries.

The report quoted Don D'Cruz, a specialist who spent a decade fighting NGO campaigns, as saying that the RSPO process, although good-intentioned, was likely to cause a great deal of damage to the palm oil industry in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Rao said if there were matters in RSPO unfair or unreasonable to Malaysia, such as non-tariff barriers, the country has to make its view clear before deciding to walk away from the roundtable.

With this, other stakeholders would have an opportunity to consider whether something could be done to resolve the issue, he said.

According to Rao, all stakeholders are concerned about the palm oil industry.

"Indeed at the 6th roundtable, the Indonesian delegation walked away during the general assembly but Indonesia remained as a member of RSPO as all parties concerned have agreed to compromise," he said.

RSPO is a non-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry, comprising palm oil producers, processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental and nature conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and social or developmental NGOs.

Aim of the association is to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

Rao said Malaysia as a producer may not be happy with the RSPO but as a global supplier, it cannot decide on its own how it will produce palm oil.

He agreed that the RSPO process was costly, saying that to be a member of RSPO required two thousand euros a year.

He added that RSPO members are also required to pay between US$1 and US$3 per hectare to obtain the RSPO certification.

Rao said the cost, however, would also depend on the company's size and its business volume.

"They will also need to pay the auditor, and with the RSPO certification, their palm oil will be at higher price," he said.

On whether the RSPO was created out of a desire by western food multinationals to head off what they viewed as an inevitable campaign on palm oil, Rao said western food multinationals are important as they are large buyers.

However, the global palm oil market is not only focusing on western food multinationals as there are other markets for the industry, he said.